WASHINGTON -- December 20 -- The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Celebrates Five Years of Civil Unions in Vermont
On December 20, 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ordered the legislature "to assign to same-sex couples the common benefits and protections that flow from marriage under Vermont law." That decision led to the creation of "civil unions." Statement from Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, on the fifth anniversary of the Vermont Supreme Court's decision.
"Five years ago, the Supreme Court of Vermont made a simple but revolutionary ruling that same-sex couples should have the same rights of marriage as heterosexual couples. Conservatives called the decision 'worse than terrorism,' and sounded alarms about the rending of the moral fabric of society and destruction of the institution of marriage. Vermont Representative George Allard intoned, 'This is a sad, dark day for the state of Vermont, and may God help us all.' The following election year, after a virulent national backlash campaign, seventeen Vermont lawmakers who supported civil unions lost their seats. The newly-elected Republican majority in the House attempted to impeach the Vermont Supreme Court and overturn the civil unions law. But, ultimately the right-wing's vicious campaign to 'Take Back Vermont' failed, and civil unions remained in effect.
Today, so much has changed. Now, over 60% of Americans support civil unions or civil marriage for same-sex couples. Civil union has become the fall-back position of many who are opposed to same-sex marriage. Vermont Democrats regained substantial majorities in both houses of the legislature in 2004. Heterosexual marriage continues to do well in the state with Vermont having one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. And, not a single legislator in neighboring Massachusetts who voted for marriage equality earlier this year lost his or her seat in November.
While the intense backlash over same-sex unions in Vermont was shallow and short-lived, the positive effects for couples in civil unions have been lasting. Hundreds of Vermont families are better off for having equal rights with married couples, including the rights to family medical benefits, file joint income taxes, visit their loved ones in the hospital, and make inheritance decisions. We celebrate the nearly 7,000 pioneering couples from around the country that have affirmed their commitments in Vermont. And we salute the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, the plaintiffs and their attorneys from GLAD and Langrock, Sperry, & Wool who argued the case, and the justices, legislators, and governor who put their careers on the line to win these rights. When, at last, every state in the union recognizes the right of same-sex couples to marry, let it be remembered that the people of Vermont took the first, brave step toward equality."
Founded in 1973, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation (the Task Force) was the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and advocacy organization and remains the movement's leading voice for freedom, justice, and equality. We work to build the grassroots political strength of our community by training state and local activists and leaders, working to strengthen the infrastructure of state and local allies, and organizing broad-based campaigns to build public support for complete equality for LGBT people. Our Policy Institute, the community's premiere think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a world that respects and makes visible the diversity of human expression and identity where all people may fully participate in society. Headquartered in Washington, DC, we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Cambridge. The Task Force is a 501(c)(3) corporation incorporated in Washington, DC. Contributions to the Task Force are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc. ("NGLTF, Inc."), founded in 1974, works to build the grassroots political power of the LGBT community to win complete equality. We do this through direct and grassroots lobbying to defeat anti-LGBT ballot initiatives and legislation and pass pro-LGBT legislation and other measures. We also analyze and report on the positions of candidates for public office on issues of importance to the LGBT community. NGLTF, Inc. is a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation incorporated in New York. Contributions to NGLTF, Inc. are not tax-deductible.
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