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C-U Later

Local Matters


Published March 9, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

How often does a political action committee dissolve because it actually gets what it wants? That's what happened to Vermonters for Civil Unions, the organization incorporated in 2000 to fund political candidates who supported the state's groundbreaking civil-unions law.

Civil unions aren't so groundbreaking anymore; now that Massachusetts lets gay and lesbian couples get married for real, our second-class-citizen civil arrangement has become the moderate fall-back position in the same-sex-marriage debate.

Though Vermonters booted some pro-civil-union politicians from statewide office in 2000, voters seem to have had a change of heart. In last November's election, pro-civil-union candidates solidified their control of the legislature, and exit surveys showed 77 percent of Vermonters supported either gay marriage or civil unions. Proponents of the law declared the backlash over. The Vermonters for Civil Unions website -- http://www.vtcivilunionspac.org -- now authoritatively declares, "Vermont's civil-union law is secure."

But it goes on to encourage supporters to continue advocating for full marriage rights by working with the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, which is still alive and well. VCU spokesperson Beth Robinson, one of the lawyers who argued the landmark Baker case that led to civil unions, says she won't rule out any more lawsuits or trips to the legislature, though she doesn't expect either of those situations to materialize anytime soon.

Right now the group is focused on the "grassroots groundwork" -- explaining to allies why it's important to keep working for marriage. "The new challenge," she says, "is helping people to understand that the civil-union law, which was clearly a step forward in 2000, wasn't the end of the line... We never felt then, and we don't feel now, that that was the final step."

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