DOMA Pulled in Vermont
Opponents Expect Measure to Return
March 9, 2001
By Bill Roundy
A bill to prohibit legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Vermont was
withdrawn by its chief sponsor during debate March 2, after an opponent of the
legislation pointed out that the bill would have also made it a felony for
partners in same-sex relationships to have sex.
House Bill 404 sought to amend state law prohibiting incestuous marriages
to also prohibit marriage between two men or between two women. During debate
over the bill, Rep. Margaret Hummel (D-Underhill) pointed out that another
part of the criminal code which refers to the incestuous marriage statute
would also apply to same-sex couples if the bill were approved.
"Persons between whom marriages are prohibited by the laws of this
state who intermarry or commit fornication with each other shall be imprisoned
not more than five years or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both," the
criminal code states.
If the bill were to pass, Hummel told the Blade, any same-sex couple who
committed "fornication" any sexual act would be committing a
Vermont does not have a sodomy law it was repealed in 1977. And because
same-sex couples are not singled out as being prohibited from marrying, they
are currently exempt from that aspect of the code.
Supporters of the bill disputed Hummels interpretation, but Rep.
Margaret Flory (R-Rutland), chair of the Judiciary Committee, admitted that
the bill required further review, according to the Rutland Herald. The bill
was sponsored by the Judiciary Committee as a whole, and Flory requested that
the bill be returned to the committee for more consideration.
Further action on the bill was delayed until March 15, when the legislature
returns from a short break. Hummell said it is likely that the provisions
relating to fornication will be amended, and the bill will return to the House
An identical bill (H261) to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriage has
attracted 80 co-sponsors, so the likelihood of the legislation passing the
140-member House is strong. However, most Gay activists believe that the bill
will be defeated in the majority-Democrat Senate.
Hummel said that, even if the section criminalizing Gay sex is removed, she
still will not vote for it.
"I think it is totally unnecessary," said Hummel. "We have a
positive definition if two men or two women go to a county clerk and say
that they want a marriage license, theyre going to be refused."
Several other bills have been introduced to repeal or amend the states
civil union law, which provide almost all of the state benefits of marriage to
same-sex couples. None of those bills have yet moved out of committee, so they
are effectively dead for the year, having missed the March 2 legislative
deadline for consideration on the floor. Because House Bill 404 was introduced
and debated on the House floor before the deadline, it is still considered an
active bill, Hummell said, and it is not affected by that deadline.
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