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Vt. House advances bill for gay marriage

By Dave Gram
Associated Press / April 3, 2009
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MONTPELIER - After impassioned pleas from gay and lesbian legislators sharing their own love stories in front of hundreds of partisans packing the chamber, the Vermont House yesterday advanced a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

Representative Jason Lorber, a Burlington Democrat, told of seeing his and his partner's announcement in the newspaper in a "civil union" category separate from the marriage announcements.

"Why do we have to differentiate?" a weeping Lorber asked his House colleagues. "Why do we have to say you are different? Why can't we just say 'Congratulations' " when same-sex couples wed.

After about five hours of debate, the House gave the bill preliminary approval on a 95-52 roll call vote. The margin was less than the two-thirds' majority that would be needed for the 150-member House to override Governor Jim Douglas's promised veto. The Senate previously passed the bill, 26-4, so a veto override is seen as likely there.

Opponents of the measure spoke of their respect for its advocates. One, Representative Albert "Sonny" Audette, a South Burlington Democrat, expressed sadness at having concluded he was required by the Catholic Church to vote no.

"My religion at this point would not want me to vote for this," he said. "I wish that I could, and I hope for the best, and I congratulate the people who are trying to get this through."

Only Massachusetts and Connecticut permit same-sex marriage.

The House must vote again on the bill today in its final reading.