Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Vermont has survived: The fifth anniversary of civil unions
Today is the fifth anniversary of former Gov. Howard Dean signing Vermont's civil union law providing gay men and lesbians with the same legal benefits and protections as married couples. Last year, Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, and last week, Connecticut became the second state to recognize civil unions.
Perhaps the strongest measure of how far the issue has come is that civil unions, considered so radical in 2000, are now the "conservative" compromise -- providing benefits but still not "real" marriage -- offered by politicians grappling with similar proposals elsewhere.
"What the real story is, five years out, is that it's not a story," said Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, adding, "It was passed, it was implemented and the story was over. There's not a debate in the Statehouse, not a debate in neighborhoods, not a debate in families anymore. It has become routine."
In addition, Markowitz noted that Vermont became a gay tourist destination, benefiting inns, caterers, florists and others who provide services for civil unions, though some of the business may be lost to neighboring Massachusetts, where couples can marry.
Money will win 'em over every time.