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VT HOUSE H.178: Read the bill
VT SENATE S.115: Read the bill

« Beth’s Blog: Divisiveness and Democracy | Main | Day 2 of Senate Judiciary Hearings »

March 16, 2009

Day 1 of Senate Judiciary Hearings

Click here to view videoclips of Day 1 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee

The hearings have begun!  The Senate Judiciary Committee began its hearings on S.115 today.    Led by Senator Richard Sears of Bennington, the five-member Committee heard a full day of testimony from law professors, advocates, and civil rights organizations in front of a jam-packed room full of Vermonters. 

Tom Little, Chair of the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection, led off, reviewing the Commission's process and conclusions.  He emphasized that the two legal statuses of marriage and civil unions have different social and historical significance.

  • Greg Johnson of Vermont Law School discussed the issues same-sex couples face when they travel from state to state, and underscored the variety of ways that the legal benefits of civil unions fall short to those of civil marriage. He acknowledged that he previously believed the statuses were equal, but experience in the courts and our shared life experience has demonstrated otherwise.

  • Brian Pearl, a vocal opponent of the freedom to marry from Grand Isle, testified graphically about sexual acts.

  • The VT Human Rights Commission and the VT Commission on Women both spoke in favor of the freedom to marry, emphasizing the civil rights at stake.  We appreciate their support!

  • Vermont Law School Professor Peter Teachout emphasized the important role that the legislature plays in upholding the Vermont Constitution.

  • TIP leader Craig Bensen testified that including same sex couples in marriage would destroy the institution.

  • Vermont Freedom to Marry Chair and lawyer Beth Robinson illustrated the shortcomings of the civil union law with a series of stories about real Vermonters who have suffered harms because they can't legally marry. 

Tomorrow's hearings begin at 10:00 a.m.  The 90 minute session will feature witnesses from the business community.  Hearings will continue in the mornings each day this week.  Visitors are encouraged to attend, but you should get there early because space will be tight.  Click here for a complete schedule of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this week.

You can view videoclips of the hearings on our website throughout each day of testimony this week, so be sure to visit us frequently for updates. If you can't be at the State House, we're doing all we can to give you swift access to information so that you too can be a part of the legislative process!   Stay tuned...we'll contact you again tomorrow with a report of the day's events.