The same-sex domestic partnerships bill
April 25, 2000 12:50 PM   Subscribe

The same-sex domestic partnerships bill in Vermont has been approved by the state's lawmakers. "The continued denial of these legal protections, benefits and responsibilities to a small but vulnerable class of Vermont's citizens diminishes their humanity, dignity, freedom and independence." It's about damn time, hopefully other states will soon follow suit. Oh, and if you have a problem with this, listen to this and let me know why you continue to have problems with it.
posted by mathowie (12 comments total)
the more interesting issue to me is that I believe that all states are constitutionally bound to recognize these marriages. (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). which would mean that if you go to Vermont and get married, you're married wherever you go.

if this is correct, then it's almost a moot point whether other states follow suit or not.

I wonder if there was a similar situation with interracial marriage back in the day? and how it fell out?

any historians here?

posted by rebeccablood at 1:08 PM on April 25, 2000

States actually don't have to recognize marriages made in other states. Language to this effect was even part of the legislation passed recently in California [prop 22 I think] that 'banned' gay marriage in the state.

You ask a good question in regards to interracial marriage - I'd guess that there was a similar situation at some point in the past, although I've never heard of it.

posted by schlyer at 1:29 PM on April 25, 2000

I think you are wrong RB, because they aren't getting marriage per se, but "a parallel system of civil unions " which wouldn't necessarily be recognized in other states. That distinction will likely be challenged, but at least initially I don't think it'll bestow universally bestow marital rights. Either way, it won't be recognized in California for a while.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:30 PM on April 25, 2000

Unfortunately, the federal government has forseen this:

"In what the ACLU termed a 'deplorable act of hostility,' both the House and the Senate adopted a measure that would deny federal recognition of marriages between lesbian and gay couples. In addition to redefining the Federal definition of marriage, the bill would create a 'gay exception' to the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause by allowing states to ignore same-sex marriages performed in any other state. The House vote in favor of the bill was 342 to 67; the Senate approved it by a vote of 84 to 15. President Clinton signed the legislation."
posted by daveadams at 1:31 PM on April 25, 2000

And here's the answer to Rebecca's other question. A summary of the history of interracial marriage law in the United States. The Supreme Court finally overturned antimiscegenation laws in 1967 in the Loving v. Virginia case. Very interesting reading.
posted by daveadams at 1:40 PM on April 25, 2000

Well, what's interesting here is the law in Vermont is not about marriage. The courts gave them a choice between adopting gay marriages, or creating a system where gay couples would be afforded the same legal rights (on a state level anyway) as married couples. They chose civil unions.

Since Civil Unions aren't marriages, it's unclear whether the above laws would apply (since they mention marriage specifically).

I was aware of the Federal law from four years ago, but I didn't know it provided an exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause in the constitution. To me, this seems like something that sets it up for an easy legal challenge. An act of congress CAN'T take precedence over the constitution. (I don’t remember how iron clad the full faith clause is)

Of course, I'm no lawyer, I just watch to many talking heads.

posted by alana at 1:54 PM on April 25, 2000

Is it just me, or does "a parallel system of civil unions" sound a lot like "separate but equal?"

and we all know how equal that was...
posted by mathowie at 1:54 PM on April 25, 2000

This is all I can find on the "Full Faith and Credit" clause. Seems to me that it's pretty much saying, "it's up to Congress."

Article IV Section 1
"Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."
posted by daveadams at 2:04 PM on April 25, 2000

Until 1998, the state constituition of South Carolina contained this, at Article III, Section 33: "The marriage of a white person with a Negro or mulatto, or person who shall have one-eighth or more of Negro blood, shall be unlawful and void." It was a very very old law, but the question is, *why* did it remain on the books even after rendered unenforceable by other rulings around the country back in the 60s and thereabouts, and *why* did they have to have a *vote* to remove it? I think it says a lot that it stuck around so long after Loving. Purely symbolic, indeed.

daveadams refers to the "Defense of Marriage Act" of 1996, which I've quoted from here before but will again because it's scary enough to bear repeating: "No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship." Constitutionally there is a provision that states should honor one another's laws but there's what almost looks like a loophole right after that saying that Congress has the power to pass laws regarding these sorts of conflicts between state laws.

[If I ran my very own anti-homophobia weblog, it would consist of me posting the same six or eight snippets of dumbfounded outrage over about a two-month cycle, based on whatever the latest applicable news story is. Wouldn't have to update the commentary at all, just the links. I'm so very very glad this story is finally a positive one.]
posted by Sapphireblue at 2:13 PM on April 25, 2000

it took me so long to write that post it was rendered obsolete by the time I got done. wait up! wait up!

matt: I hear your point about "separate but equal" but as staunch a supporter of gay rights as I am, I'm really pleased with the idea of civil unions. Especially since there wasn't gonna *be* any equal happening if equal means actual gay marriages. Here's my thinking: somewhere along the road, the church and the state got all mixed up in the institution of marriage. In the Catholic church specifically (the only one with which I have first-hand experience!), it's a sacrament, a very sacred religious rite. If that were all marriage was, fine and dandy, I don't give a damn what anyone does with their religion assuming respect for life liberty and pursuit of happiness of others (hell of an assumption, I know). But that's NOT all marriage is, it's a legal status too. I read someplace that in Vermont specifically there are some 300 legal rights that married couples have just by dint of being married that gay couples just never could have. And that to me is the inequity. Some of the most heartbreaking stories that come to my mind in regards to what gay couples miss in not being able to be legally bound involve one or the other partner becoming terribly ill, maybe even dying, and the healthy/surviving partner is completely at the mercy of the ill one's family to have any say in treatment or funeral arrangements or burial or even visiting in the hospital. And too many families hang onto spite and denial and hate even in a situation like that...

What I'm trying to say is that sacred is relative and I can't care a lot about what a religious group wants to choose as its lifestyle. But the *religious* definition of marriage has come on this issue to override the *legal* implications and if that's the case---fine. Let the zealots have marriage. Just as long as people have the right to choose whomever they wish to be the most important person in their lives, and to have a body of law that supports that, such that the courts cannot be used as they sometimes are now as a weapon against that choice---I don't care what they call it.
posted by Sapphireblue at 2:27 PM on April 25, 2000

As a little bit of information, the city of St Louis started offering "gay civil unions", which are legally binding with respect to municipal laws, back when Hawaii first started their debate.

Found an interesting site which lists regional recognitions of gay-unions here.

posted by nomisxid at 2:44 PM on April 25, 2000

Sapphireblue said most of what I wanted to say (and moreso), so I'll just say that a rose by any other name will still end up with a 50% divorce rate. It may be "separate but equal," Matt, but it's still a step in the right direction, in a series of small steps that will determine if equality will ever be reached on this issue. Don't be wholly satisfied, but still take it as the small victory that it is.

Oh, and Matt? You pick a routine that tells people to get over homosexuality, but then blasts bisexuality? Ugh.
posted by jason at 10:08 AM on April 27, 2000

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