Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.
The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.
The vote came nine years after Vermont adopted its first-in-the-nation civil unions law.
It’s now the fourth state to permit same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa are the others. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.
Tuesday morning's legislative action came less than a day after Douglas issued a veto message saying the bill would not improve the lot of gay and lesbian couples because it still would not provide them rights under federal and other states' laws.
Gov. Jim Douglas, who vetoed legislation, said, "I prepared myself for this outcome and predicted it. The outcome was not unexpected."
He had called the issue of gay marriage a distraction during a time when economic and budget issues were more important.
"What really disappoints me is that we have spent some time on an issue during which another thousand Vermonters have lost their jobs," the governor said Tuesday. "We need to turn out attention to balancing a budget without raising taxes, growing the economy, putting more people to work."
House Speaker Shap Smith's announcement of the vote brought an outburst of jubilation from some of the hundreds packed into the gallery and the lobby outside the House chamber, despite the speaker's admonishment against such displays.
The true jubilation didn't start until everyone gathered downstairs where they congratulated legislative leaders who championed the cause.
Among the celebrants in the lobby were former Rep. Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, and his longtime partner, Chuck Kletecka. Dostis recalled efforts to expand gay rights dating to an anti-discrimination law passed in 1992.
"It's been a very long battle. It's been almost 20 years to get to this point," Dostis said. "I think finally, most people in Vermont understand that we're a couple like any other couple. We're as good and as bad as any other group of people. And now I think we have a chance to prove ourselves here on forward that we're good members of our community."
Dostis said he and Kletecka will celebrate their 25th year together in September.
"Is that a proposal?" Kletecka asked.
"Yeah," Dostis replied. "Twenty-five years together, I think it's time we finally got married."
Also, the Washington DC city council voted to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Progress!