VERMONT -- The Green Mountain State boasts the first civil-union law in the country, a Republican-turned-Independent as U.S. senator and a self-described Socialist as congressman. Yet last week, Vermont was only ranked fifth in the U.S. for its liberal leanings by a national coalition of social-justice groups. What does a blue state have to do to get some respect?
"It's touching," said Kirsten Sherk, a spokesperson for the reproductive rights advocacy group, Ipas, one of the three organizations that compiled the state-by-state ranking. Massachusetts, which ranked sixth, "was also very distressed," she said.
Each state was evaluated on a number of factors, including its laws on abortion, contraception, LGBT protections and equal rights for men and women. According to Sherk, Vermont lost points for its lack of adequate access to emergency contraception in emergency rooms and pharmacies, the availability of confidential family planning services for minors, its hate-crimes legislation for the LGBT community, its Medicaid coverage of family planning services, and the absence of a same-sex marriage law. Nationwide, New Mexico ranked at the top of the list.
"There's always room for improvement," Sherk added, "but five is still very good."