JUSTice 4 WORDS, Now Vote!

If you attended the press conference in the ENTHUSIASTICALLY PACKED State House Cedar Creek room a week ago Friday, you also saw Euan Bear unfurl a banner.

The banner asks a simple question: If civil unions are the same as marriage, want to trade?

To me the banner is really asking: “why does the State of Vermont – or any state – force upon a couple, a union, a marriage, this legal distinction?”

More over the bump . . .

The real issue, of course, is not about anyone “trading” their State-created legal couple status, whatever that status might be.

The point is no Vermonter should be forced to think about “trading-up” for a status that the State already gives away to most of its citizens. This is a pure civil rights matter, and it is our General Assembly's responsibility to fix. And it is our responsibility to stand with our General Assembly to see it fixed.

This is about fairness, this is about equality.  Because some of us have heterosexual marriages, the government chooses to give us one set of rights and recognition relative to our families' State-sanctioned legal protections. The State's role is not to play favorites, the State's role is to play fair.

For many of our friends, relatives, neighbors and many others in our community, Vermont government ignores their right to a marriage.  Relative to state-created family and state-sanctioned marital protections, Vermont government forces upon members of our democratic community a lesser legal status if they are not heterosexuals.

Why the difference between two communities in our one State? Or, why does Vermont choose to continue imposing two sets of rights for one community of citizens? The lack of equal treatment exists because some of us were NOT born homosexual; and the treatment occurs because some of us were NOT born heterosexual. That is not a way to make public policy; it is only a recipe for community division.

So here is the practical issue. We are now at the point – finally – where State recognition of THE RIGHT to marriage, which same gender couples inherently have, is within reach. It is a relatively simple act from a legislative perspective. The bill pending in the General Assembly is only a few sentences long (H.178).

The equal marriage rights bill is simple. At its statutory core, what this law will do is recognize the right to marry by changing JUST.4.WORDS.

JUST(ice) = 4 Words

I'll say it again, the bill TAKES FOUR (4) WORDS OUT of the Vermont code.

Where the law currently reads:

. . . the town clerk shall issue the marriage license “in the town where either the bride or groom resides . . . “

H.178 changes the language so the law will now state:

. . . the town clerk shall issue the marriage license “in the town where either party resides. . .”

See the difference? Four words.

That's the scoop. Just four words.  JUST[ice] 4 WORDS.

History already left the station on this issue.  Vermont maybe leading much of the country.  However, it is still playing catch-up respecting the rights of all Vermonters who want a marriage.

It's about time. It's past time. Don't let the forces of fear, hate, division and prejudice stop the righting of this wrong.


Don't fall for the distractions.  The Governor is trying to distract you. The anti-marriage collective is having the vapors in front of you. The harp-along conservative dittoheads are clutching their pearls and fretting over how “complicated” an issue this is. They are all bearing false witness about how “time consuming” or “distracting from the important work of the legislature” this will be. They shiver and stutter about how difficult civil rights issues are for the General Assembly.  Excuse me.  My representatives can vote and chew gum at the same time.

This will only become time consuming and this will only be complicated if conservatives and the anti-marriage forces drag it out. There is nothing to drag out.
The time is now. The work is done. Vote!

JUST 4 Words.

About Caoimhin Laochdha

Central Vermont life-long civil liberties activist. I offset my carbon footprint by growing my own energy and riding my bicycle at least 8 months of the year. Every election cycle, since Gerald Ford's social promotion to the Oval Office, I've volunteered for at least one Democratic presidential campaign that ultimately finished in second (or lower) place.

8 thoughts on “JUSTice 4 WORDS, Now Vote!

  1. “They shiver and stutter about how difficult civil rights issues are for the General Assembly.”

    Yeah, and still sit around and obsess about “man-dog” marriage or “woman-turtle” marriage, or whatever, probably a bit aroused, too.

    But seriously, what you write is an excellent example of taking something important and putting it about as simple and straightforward as you can get it. Nice job.

  2. I so appreciate it when someone who is married is also passionate about extending the rights and benefits of that status to lesbians and gay men. No minority ever got better treatment without strong allies. I’m proud to have you as one of mine.

    The side of the banner you got was the “punk” version:

    If C U = I DO


    The longer version was:

    “If We’re Equal

    Will You Trade

    Your Marriage For

    My Civil Union?”

    Here are the arguments I’ve been hearing from “I-wish-this-would-just-go-away” Democratic legislators who otherwise lean liberal:

    “I think the state should get out of the marriage business altogether. Everyone should have a civil union, and if you want to get married, then go to your church.”

    I don’t disagree. But that’s a far more radical solution, far less likely to be implemented in the state or on the national level any time soon than simply opening civil marriage to everyone equally, regardless of gender.


    “You people already have equal rights in Vermont. Passing this bill won’t change a thing.”

    Well, yes and no. Passing H.178 changes the public perception of my relationship as something other than marriage. It removes the concept of “second-class” from consideration. It allows me to travel outside of Vermont with my spouse and receive the benefit of the doubt should something happen to either of us. It gives us a seat in the courtroom when the federal Defense of Marriage Act (one of Bill Clinton’s homophobic legacies, along with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) is finally challenged. It even decreases the amount (and cost) of duplicative paperwork that maintaining two state-recognized kinds of marriage requires.

    Further, as Caoimhin so clearly observed in an earlier diary: it won’t cost a nickel, it might bring a boost in tourism for wedding-industry vendors, and it won’t harm anyone. So why are you legislators, most of you already enjoying all the federal, state, local, and social benefits of marriage, so ready to stand in the way of my having them too?

    One more time, in Caoimhin’s prior phrase:

    One Sentence

    One Syllable

    One Second

    (and one signature)

    for Justice and Equality to expand in our state.

    Just(ice) 4 Words.


    Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  3. Here are the arguments I’ve been hearing from “I-wish-this-would-just-go-away” Democratic legislators who otherwise lean liberal:

    “I think the state should get out of the marriage business altogether. Everyone should have a civil union, and if you want to get married, then go to your church.”

    Great. I think the same thing too! Yay!

    However, we are not inventing a new system, we are fixing an existing one.  

    I also think marriage is well suited for a “belief” or “faith-based” application. This would leave civil unions being the default legal and familial foundation that applies to all of us equally.

    But that is not the world we live in.

    I also

    “think the state should subsidize daycare for working parents who commute to-and-from work and school exlusively on Light Rail in Chittenden/Washington/Addison/Rutland and Frankin Counties”

    based on the macro economic and environmental benefits to society.

    However, since we don’t have a Light Rail system connecting anyone or anything in any of those counties, my policy prescription basically amounts to me talking out of my ass.

    The civil union excuse for everyone is fine, but it is only a cop-out unless the people supporting that position are also co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the State’s marriage laws.  Don’t quite see that happening.


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