'Civil Union' Passes Vermont House

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The "Civil Union" bill, which would create a parallel to marriage for homosexual couples, has passed the Vermont House of Representatives.

The legislation, which withstood a host of amendments intended to weaken it, passed late on Wednesday by a vote of 79 to 68.

The bill now goes to the Senate. If passed there - and passage is expected - the bill goes to Governor Howard Dean, who has said he would sign it.

A civil union involves a couple obtaining a license from their town clerk, followed by a "certification ceremony."

Should the relationship end, issues such as custody and the division of property would be handled by a family court judge, as is now done in heterosexual divorce cases.

The matter came to the legislature after a December ruling by that state's Supreme Court that homosexual couples were being denied the rights and benefits of marriage.

According to the court, the denial was unconstitutional. The court ruled that the situation could be remedied by either changing the state's marriage laws or by creating a domestic partnership law.

"Passing the bill the House Judiciary Committee brought forward will not end discrimination, prejudice and hate, but it will grant rights," said State Representative William Lippert, a Democrat and the sole homosexual member of the state legislature.

"The issue before us does arouse deep emotions and that's because there have been years and years, decades upon decades, of mistreatment, discrimination and prejudice against one particular group in our society, that group being gay men and lesbians, " Lippert added.

Speaking about her children, State Representative Maureen Dakin, another Democrat who supported the legislation, added, "I want them to remember that their mother dug deep down into her gut, talked to her priest, and said, 'I've got to do what's right."

"If you feel in your heart and soul that this is the right thing to do, remember this is about people and not politics," said House Democratic Leader John Tracy.

The legislature also considered a bill that would have permitted homosexuals couples to marry. It was defeated by a wide margin, 125 to 22.