Last edited: August 08, 2004


‘DOMA’ Pulled in Vermont

Opponents Expect Measure to Return

Washington Blade, 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A bill to prohibit legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Vermont was withdrawn by its chief sponsor during debate March 2, after an opponent of the legislation pointed out that the bill would have also made it a felony for partners in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 felony.

Vermont does not have a sodomy law — it was repealed in 1977.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 Hummel’s 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 floor.

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, they’re going to be refused."

Several other bills have been introduced to repeal or amend the state’s 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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