[JURIST] Vermont Governor Jim Douglas (R) [official website] said Wednesday that he would veto a bill [S.0115 text, PDF] approved [JURIST report] earlier this week by the Vermont State Senate [official website] that authorizes same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive] in the state. In a statement [Flash audio; transcript] made to reporters, Douglas said that he announced his position early because he wanted to allow the legislature to focus on more crucial issues. Douglas' opposition to the bill is based on his belief that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman, and that Vermont civil union laws [official backgrounder] provide enough rights and benefits for same-sex couples:
Vermonts civil union law has extended the same state rights, responsibilities and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. I believe our civil union law serves Vermont well and I would support congressional action to extend those benefits at the federal level to states that recognize same-sex unions. But like President Obama and other leaders on both sides of the aisle, I believe that marriage should remain between a man and woman.Despite his disapproval of the proposed law, Douglas said that he believes the legislature has enough votes to override his veto. The bill is expected to be presented [Burlington Free Press report] before the Vermont House of Representatives next week.
On Monday, the Vermont State Senate approved [Senate journal, PDF], by a vote of 26-4, the bill, entitled "An Act to Protect Religious Freedom and Promote Equality in Civil Marriage." If the proposed legislation passes, Vermont would join Massachusetts [JURIST news archive] and Connecticut [JURIST report] in extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. Previously, Vermont became the first state to offer civil unions to same-sex couples when then-Governor Howard Dean signed H.B.847 [text] into law in April 2000.