Openly gay Vermont state Rep. Jason Lorber, a former Victory Fund endorsee, expressed cautious optimism about the prospect of passing marriage equality legislation in the state, despite Gov. Jim Douglas’ declaration that he would veto such a bill.
“We need to just stay focused on getting this bill passed,” Lorber told GayPolitics.com. “We’re certainly disappointed with the governor, but we need to do the right thing. Anytime you try to override a governor it’s a big [challenge] – but I believe we can do it.”
The marriage bill passed Vermont’s Senate by a vote of 26-4. According to Lorber, Douglas’ veto announcement may affect how legislators vote in the House.
“We’re going to pass it resoundingly, but whether we have the veto-proof margin is a different question,” he said. “Now that the governor has inserted himself into the legislative process, he has politicized this question even more than it has been. Now, when members are voting they have to take into calculation the veto — whereas before it would have been a much more pure vote of ‘this is how I feel about it.’”
“That’s disappointing that we couldn’t have that vote initially, just on the merits of the bill.”
Vermont became the first state to pass civil unions legislation in 2000. If the state’s current marriage bill becomes law, Vermont will become first in the nation to gain marriage without the involvement of the court system.
“[Civil unions] reframed the issue across the nation,” Lorber said. “This very far-forward thinking, bold statement that Vermont made in 2000 has become a conservative fallback position. I believe Vermont is now ready to make the next step.”
Lorber mentioned that his own role as an openly gay state legislator has made this debate very personal.
Lorber and his partner are currently in a civil union and are raising a son together.
“This is a very emotional issue,” he said. “It’s hard talking to my colleagues and my friends in the statehouse, many of whom I know are going to vote against this and in doing so vote against me and my family.”
For more information on the Vermont marriage debate, visit Vermont Freedom to Marry.