Vermont Democrats today came out swinging against Gov. Jim Douglas' surprise announcement yesterday that he would veto the marriage equality bill currently being reviewed in the House.
The bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate Monday by a 26-4 vote, which is a veto-proof margin. On the House side, supporters of marriage equality need at least 100 votes (out of 150 members) to sustain a veto. It's not yet clear if that many House members support the measure. There are 96 Democrats, 48 Republicans, four Progressives and two independents.
Word is under the Golden Dome that a number of Democrats in more conservative-leaning districts in Franklin, Rutland and Bennington counties are not likely to support the bill. That means it will be a tough fight to get it passed, and House leaders may take more time reviewing the bill before putting it up for a floor vote. It was slated to hit the House floor next week, either Thursday or Friday. That may be a tough deadline to meet, according to several lawmakers.
What is clear is that the party's leadership supports same-sex marriage, including some members of the Vermont congressional delegation. Newly-elected state party chairwoman Judy Bevans said Douglas is betraying Vermont's legacy of being a civil rights leader.
"Vermont has been a leader in civil rights legislation since her founding Constitution was written and passed," said Bevans in a statement. "Governor Douglas’ statement against marriage equality suggests that he believes Vermonters will agree to his betrayal of our shared legacy."
“Vermonters have now seen the true character of Governor Jim Douglas. His narrow vision of Vermont demeans its citizens, and his willingness to exclude some Vermonters from equal treatment bodes ill for our state’s future," Bevans continued. "As long as there is inequality, this issue will not go away. When
the bill reaches his desk, the Governor should admit he has made a mistake and sign the bill or let it become law without his signature."
Bevans urged “Vermonters of all parties" to resist Douglas' veto and continue Vermont's long tradition of supporting equality.
"By supporting marriage equality, we demonstrate that we remain true Vermonters: we want equality and fairness for all our neighbors," added Bevans. "Vermont’s motto is ‘Freedom and Unity.’ We are united in supporting the freedom of all Vermonters to pursue and achieve equality.”
Douglas' move is also likely to be a hot topic of debate at Saturday night's big fundraiser — the tenth annual David W. Curtis Leadership Awards. Former Gov. Howard Dean — who signed Vermont's landmark civil unions legislation into law — will receive a special award.
The awards will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Hilton inBurlington.
Dean will be honored for his 50-state strategy, which party officials say "revolutionized the Democratic Party andled to victories at every level in states across the country."
The guest speaker will be US Sen. ClaireMcCaskill of Missouri, the first woman elected to the United States Senate from Missouri. Sheserves on the Armed Services, Commerce, Homeland Security andGovernment Affairs, Aging, and Indian Affairs committees.