by Peter Freyne
Little, former GOP chair of the House Judiciary Committee that wrote the landmark civil unions statute in 2000, is filling a very big seat as chairman of the new gay-marriage study commission appointed by the Democratic Leadership of the Legislature.
Statehouse Reporter Kristin Carlson noted, "The most recent Channel 3 poll on this was about a year and a half ago and it said 44 percent of Vermonters were in favor of same-sex marriage. 48 percent were not in favor of same-sex marriage...Do you really feel like this is a priority that Vermonters want lawmakers to be focusing on?"
LITTLE: Boy. I wish we could answer that question, Kristin. There are a lot of opinions about what should be focused on, as we saw with the global-warming festival that we had this spring, and even into July.
I think, looking back over 15-20 years. that the issues that Vermonters as a whole, as an electorate, care about are having a safe state; having a reasonable tax policy; having a clean state environmentally; and good schools. And this is not one of those kinds of issues for Vermonters. It’s of a different order. But I think Vermonters also have a 200 year tradition of being fair, tolerant, and being devoted to human rights and civil liberties and this is part of that agenda.
I think it’s something that the Legislature has a duty to take up when they feel it’s right. I know that sometimes with a tough issue, it involves controversy and social turmoil. Advocates try to bring it up every year, or every other year, until they get it done. And I think, my experience has been that’s not the best way of handling an issue like that. You can’t put it off indefinitely, but you want to make sure you strike when everything’s in place. It takes a lot of energy and political courage to do it, but it can be done, as we saw with civil unions.