If you have ever looked at a marriage license, chances are you did not see the name of two men, or two women, and you probably never thought you would. However, today it is legal for same-sex couples to get married in four of the 50 states. Although some are excited about this change taking place in the United States, there are still those who disagree with the new law.
On Tuesday, April 7, 2009, Vermont announced that it would be the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage and the first to do so by a legislature's vote. The legislature voted to override Governor Jim Douglas's veto of the bill allowing people of the same sex to be wed.
Douglas said the vote was not unexpected and even called the issue of gay marriage a mere distraction during a time of economic crisis.
Nick Hawkins, a student at the University of Tennessee, who hopes to one day have the same rights as a man and woman marrying, says that it is unfair for the governor to make this statement.
"I disagree and I think fundamental equality should be for everyone," he said. "I think that the governor should represent the entire state of Vermont including the homosexuals who have been fighting for equal rights. I don't see how people who have been discriminated against for years is not as big an issue when he would rather focus on something less controversial."
Although many same-sex marriages in Vermont will have the same legal rights and privileges as opposite-sex marriages, such as joint property rights, inheritance rights, shared health care benefits, hospital visitation privileges and immunity from having to testify in court against a partner, the Defense of Marriage Act continues to stop same-sex couples from being recognized as married in states where gay marriage is not legal. So far 30 states have officially banned gay marriage.
Those who voted on Election Day to keep Proposition 8, which amended the state of California's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, saw Vermont's vote as a potential "watershed" moment. This could very well subdue the strong effect of their vote against the legalization.
Phil Kenney, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee who is not a part of the gay community, said he agrees with the fact that it should not become legal.
"I don't have a problem with homosexuals, but the thing that gets me is that I feel like some gay couples want to get married just to prove a point or that they think everyone is somehow out to get them," he said. "I also think marriage should be between a man and a woman."
Hawkins disagrees and says that two people who love each other being married in no way has an effect on opposite-sex marriage.
"We are Americans and we deserve equal rights and the same freedoms everyone else has," he said. "Using religion to back up hatred isn't what they are supposed to be teaching. Children should be raised to be accepting of different people, because kids are committing suicide and being killed for being gay. If children were raised more open-minded, lives of homosexuals could be saved."
Vermont is the first state to recognize gay marriage under a vote of the House and Senate, and joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa in its legalization. Vermont was also the first state to create civil unions for same-sex couples in 2000. The vote to override the ban on gay marriage in Vermont's state Senate was 23-5 and 100-49 in the House. These large margins may indicate that Vermont will probably not be the last state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage.
Kyle Tharp, a sophomore at the University who is also a part of the gay community, says he is looking forward to a bright future.
"I feel that for today's society it isn't such a big a deal as it used to be, even if you are religious," he said. "I feel optimistic of our generation and the hope that it one day will be legal in all 50 states."
Same-sex marriage in Vermont will become legal, officially, September 1.