VT Gov: Legislature Opted for Civil Unions

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

Montpelier, VT (CNSNews.com) - Faced with the option of legalizing same sex marriage, passing the civil unions bill or some form of reciprocal benefits package, the Vermont legislature on Tuesday freely chose to pass the civil unions bill granting same sex couples the rights and privileges of marriage, Governor Howard Dean (D) told CNSNews.com in interview.

A reciprocal benefits package "was not an option the legislature was willing to entertain," Dean told CNSNews.com.

"The legislature did have the option of the constitutional amendment, but they didn't choose that one so I don't have much choice about that. I can't do a constitutional amendment," Dean said.

Throughout the course of the bitter debate since the state Supreme Court ruled in December 1999 that homosexual couples were being unconstitutionally denied benefits enjoyed by marrieds, Dean has spoken in favor of civil unions that resemble marriage in everything but name. He is expected to sign Tuesday's package - which passed 79-68 after an emotional debate - before the end of the week.

Facing a strong challenge from a Republican candidate for the governor's office in November and a left wing challenge in his own party, Dean said the passing of the bill could affect his chances for reelection.

"There will be some people who are so disappointed that this bill passed that it will have an influence on their vote. There's no question about that," he told CNSNews.com.

"There will be people very disappointed in the way that I have supported the concept, but that's what the Supreme Court gave us to deal with, and we did," he added.

Dean said in some cases the more people understand the bill the better they will be able to live with it but he conceded, "Some people for their religious reasons believe that homosexuality is a sin and I don't believe this bill is going to change that."

Dean said he didn't think the legislation would have an adverse affect on Vermont's image around the country.

"I think this bill is a recognition that who people are is more important than what they are," he said.