What led a man to write a 1,905-page suicide note? What does it mean to have a library without books? What happens when the state makes it easier for neighbors to seek restraining orders against each other? Over the years, I have written a wide range of stories that don't fall into neat categories. Here are the highlights.
One Vote Tips Balance
Vermont legalizes same-sex marriage; 11th-hour change of heart ends veto
Abel | Globe Staff | April 8, 2009
MONTPELIER - That
it would be a tight vote was never in doubt, but the outcome was unclear until
the roll call came to the end and Jeff Young, a gardener and freshman Democrat,
switched his vote with a simple "yes'' from his wooden desk in the
His change of mind
tipped the balance yesterday in the state House of Representatives, making
Vermont the fourth state in the country to legalize marriage between same-sex
couples - and the first by a legislative vote.
ensured that lawmakers had 100 votes - the minimum needed in the heavily
Democratic 150-member Legislature to override Monday's veto by Governor Jim
Douglas. The House's 100-to-49 vote was taken about an hour after the state
Senate voted 23-5 to override the Republican governor. The new law takes effect
on Sept. 1.
The final vote
sparked cheers in the packed chambers of the State House, a gold-domed,
granite-columned building that rises from this small city in the Green
``I'm thrilled and
I'm proud of Vermont for what we did and how we conducted this conversation,''
said Beth Robinson, chairwoman of the Vermont Freedom To Marry Task Force,
which has lobbied lawmakers for years for such a law. ``I think it speaks well
of all of us. You don't get a supermajority like this without lawmakers
sticking their necks out. I'm just really grateful.''
Vermont became the
first state to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples in 2000. It joins
Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa in allowing gays and lesbians the right to
marry, but the courts changed the law in those states, not the legislatures.
Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr., a Republican from Bennington who voted against the
override, said he hopes the new law inspires residents to vote against those
who supported it. A majority of new lawmakers could vote to repeal the law,
unlike in those states where courts changed the law.
``They're going to
have to live with the consequences,'' he said. ``This does not reflect the true
values of Vermonters. It does not reflect my values nor does it reflect those
of my constituents.''
Some residents said
they hoped the new law would be a boon to the state's economy.
``If more people
are going to come here to get married, that could bring a lot of money to the
state,'' said Donna Gaulin, 37, of Brookfield. ``Anything that would improve
our economy is a good thing. We don't judge people.''
Others said they
thought all the debate was a distraction from more relevant issues. David
Goldstein, 43, of Montpelier, who is unemployed, said he would have preferred
that the Legislature focus more on the economy. ``I don't have a problem with
this, but there are a lot of other priorities,'' he said.
In an interview in
his office, House Speaker Shap Smith said he was confident he had the votes
before the roll call. Asked how he persuaded several lawmakers to reverse
themselves from last week's vote, in which only 95 lawmakers supported the
same-sex marriage bill, he denied applying pressure or offering incentives.
``I made no
promises,'' Smith said. ``I asked members to respect the Legislature, which had
already passed the bill overwhelmingly.''
With Young, who
represents St. Albans, one of the more conservative towns in the state, Smith
said: ``I talked about the issue and the work we had done. I explained how we
have to work together and support each other.''
Young said that in
the past week he had received about 3,000 e-mails and hundreds of calls from
people trying to win his support. He described his initial vote against
same-sex marriage as a ``gut decision,'' because he thought the bill ``wasn't
But when he
realized how much his vote - which was among the last - would count, he said he
thought, ``Maybe this was the time to step to the plate.''
``This wasn't the
easiest decision, but I realized that as a freshman, I don't have a lot of
chips on the table,'' he said. ``I want to have an impact for my district. . .
. This is politics.''
Debbie Evans, a
Democrat from Essex who also switched her vote, said she originally opposed the
bill because ``an overwhelming number'' of her constituents were against it.
``But I'm a staunch believer in the legislative process,'' she said. ``I
thought a veto [by the governor] wasn't appropriate, given the overwhelming
support in the Legislature.''
The governor's lack
of lobbying made it easier for lawmakers on the fence.
Douglas's deputy chief of staff, said the governor preferred that lawmakers
vote with their conscience.
believed that this was such an emotional, personal issue and that lawmakers
needed to do what was in their best interests, what was true to them, and he
didn't want to try to influence those decisions,'' Casey said. ``He made that
position clear from the beginning. It was a decision lawmakers had to make on
She said he was not
surprised by the vote, which lawmakers said was the Legislature's first
override in 19 years.
Douglas announced that he intended to veto this legislation, he said he
expected he would be overridden and that the Legislature would not have
advanced this if they didn't have the votes,'' she said. ``He was not
surprised. Democrats have the largest supermajority in the history of our
102 of the 150 seats in Vermont's House and 23 of the Senate's 30 seats. The
vote passed in the House with the help of six Republicans.
Senator Bill Doyle,
a Republican from Washington County who supported the same-sex marriage bill,
in the end voted against it.
``I didn't want to
override my governor,'' he said. ``But I think it's good that this is over. Now
we can go on to other issues.''
The campaign to
legalize marriage for same-sex couples was jump-started in Massachusetts, where
the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2004 that it was necessary to fulfill the
equal-protection clause in the state constitution. A similar judicial decision
followed last year in Connecticut. Iowa's Supreme Court legalized same-sex
marriage last week.
campaigns are underway in New Hampshire, New York, Washington, D.C., Maine, New
Jersey, and Rhode Island. Last month, New Hampshire's House of Representatives
approved a bill to legalize gay marriage, and the Senate is slated to vote on
it this month.
lawmakers approved same-sex marriage in 2005, but Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill. Last year, voters overturned a court decision
that legalized same-sex marriage by approving Proposition 8, which amended the
state's constitution to ban such marriages. The California Supreme Court is
considering a petition to overturn the ban.
yesterday, Bill Lippert, a gay Democrat who serves as chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee, said he was ``deeply touched'' by the vote.
``This will have a
profound effect on gay and lesbian Vermonters and our family and friends,'' he
said. ``But this is really a triumph of people who care about our well-being.''
be reached email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.