In December of 2007, I published this diary, which started with the following:

Tonight’s Same Sex Marriage Hearing starts with a 5pm info session followed by a meeting at 6:30pm.  I will post notes throughout the evening in the comments section, many of which will be just thoughts off the top of my head.

The evening started with the aforementioned information session, but it also contained some incredible speeches.  I’m going to post some of those notes I jotted down during the hearing, along with some new comments given recent events in Vermont.

I was liveblogging at the time, so I’m going to correct some of the typos in the quotes I provide below.  Here’s one of my early comments from the liveblog:

Next speaker is reading from a sheet of paper — clearly nervous — strong supporter of same-sex marriage.  Thanks his teachers, many of whom are in the room.  Thinks its shameful that same-sex marriage hasn’t happened yet.  Calls arguments against same sex marriage attempts to mask intolerance.  Speaking for a long time with good arguments about the changing definition of marriage.  Making the comments a bit personal about people who oppose same-sex marriage as having no family values of their own.  As with other speakers, mentions separate but equal.

Next speaker refers to separate but equal, referring to same-sex marriage as “separate but not equal” and chokes up while referencing her daughter’s lack of rights to marry.  Jokes later about all the (nonexistent) songs about civil unions.  To heterosexuals who oppose same-sex marriage, would they be satisfied with civil unions?

One of the things I want to note about this testimony is that it happened well over a year before the actual vote in Vermont on same-sex marriage.  But those arguments above didn’t change much at all when it came to the final debate in the VT legislature.  People opposing same-sex marriage claimed it was rammed down their throats, but they didn’t show up for these hearings, and didn’t voice their opposition during the months over which we had these hearings, many of them more than a year before the actual vote on the issue.

One of my later comments:

Etan Nasreddin-Longo talks about how his parents, one European woman and one African American were not allowed to marry when they met 50 years ago, and how even a year after his birth, it was still illegal for them to marry.  Very powerful speaker.  “As a black man and as a Jewish man I have never tried to participate in my own oppression and I will not do it today by participating in a civil union.”   Very short, to the point, and extremely powerful…

This was great, and I still remember the speech.  Here’s a great point about economic issues:

Lisa Frick is next… she’s got a civil union with someone who lives in nearby Massachussetts and her taxes are a MAJOR mess.  “Every time I hear the phrase ‘domestic partnership’ my accountant’s bill goes up $100.”  She’s focusing entirely on the practical elements, which is valuable.

Vermont’s law hasn’t completely changed this, but it makes things easier for people who live and/or work in VT and/or MA.  If we get it passed in NH as well, my life will become a lot simpler, as my partner and I both live in VT but I work in New Hampshire.  My organization was great about making sure she’s covered under my benefits but it took some unnecessary paperwork and was a nuisance, whereas if we’d been able to just be treated as any spouses were, it would be a lot simpler.

Another part of that same comment:

Angie Dodd is speaking now about her own experience with having a civil union and believes it helps to have stability but that it’s not quite as strong a thing as civil unions.  She mentions something important– that whenever you deal with a state agency as someone who’s part of a civil union, you’re required to come out to members of that agency.

I remember this as an issue– I used to do contract work for the state of Vermont.  I worked in a department that, as part of its work, tracked some people accepting public assistance.  When people would apply for some of this assistance, they had to specify their “marital status.”  The options included “civil union” (which is a bit odd to have as a choice for “marital status” given that it’s not supposed to be one, but anyway…), which basically meant that whenever you were applying for public assistance you had to come out of the closet.

One of my later comments combined several great speeches:

Jane Baker speaking now.  Elderly woman was proud of Vermont in civil unions and believes that it’s time to move forward and that Vermont is ready.

Mike Mrowicki, a friend and state representative, is speaking now about how his ex-wife, who came out years into their marriage, deserves her rights.  Wow.

Melissa Mahoney, very young, new Vermonter, speaking about access– braille, wheelchair ramp, etc… good points about equal rights for everybody.

Laura Wood, who came here with Melissa, is speaking now about how her parents [I think mixed-race, which is why this is relevant, which I forgot to note in the original comment] could not get married 17 years before she was born and how big a deal that is.  I love the way kids can get engaged with activism.  I don’t know how to describe how good her speech was.  VERY direct– “if I don’t have the rights I need in Vermont, I’m going to move my brilliant self to Massachusetts.”  Awesome.

I want to just say– I still remember Laura’s speech, and I really hope she decided to stay in Vermont.  She was really cool.  Mike Mrowicki, for those of you who were following the debate in the house, was the legislator who spoke out against a referendum, talking about the problems caused in California by outside interest groups.

I also want to note that I think groups such as the National Organization for Marriage, which bombed the state with robocalls about this issue, probably helped us more than they hurt– they provided the framework for the out of state interests trying to push Vermont and caused a small amount of backlash.  This is one reason I was asking people from out of state on our side to stay out of the debate, not to e-mail Vermont legislators, etc.

When the hearing was all said and done, no one, and I mean no one had spoken out against same-sex marriage.

Here’s a comment I posted after I got home (slightly edited for clarity):

I think in New England the anti-gay forces just know they’ve lost.

They’re on the losing side of a moral battle and can’t admit defeat so they’re pretending that everyone is against them.  The group MassResistance has gone completely off the deep end, to the point of posting personal information about one of the members daughters on their web site as part of their anti-gay agenda.  This article is still posted on the front page of their web site, a month after it was posted, and it’s clear that this is a desperate, freaked out article based more on a distraught mother losing her grip on reality than anything else.

This desperation seems to be reflected in the new anti marriage groups which are popping up.  They don’t have an agenda that reflects reality, so they have to make one up.  Take for example, something I posted a few days ago about their primary talking point:

Language to avoid at all costs: “Ban same-sex marriage.” Our base loves this wording. So do supporters of SSM. They know it causes us to lose about ten percentage points in polls. Don’t use it. Say we’re against “redefining marriage” or in favor or “marriage as the union of husband and wife” NEVER “banning same-sex marriage.”

These are not people who have reality on their side.

There are a lot of reasons that same-sex marriage is now scheduled to become legal in Vermont: enough Republicans (even a majority in the Vermont senate) broke with their own party to support it; enough Democrats who opposed it changed their vote to override the veto; all Progressives supported it.  

But I think the biggest reason it passed is because the arguments against it were the exact same arguments that had been made against civil unions, which basically boiled down to “the sky is falling.”  The thing is, pretty much everyone knew that the sky didn’t fall, and that 2nd class citizenship was not really worth as much in retrospect.

So I guess I’m going back to this particular piece of history because, having seen that testimony back in 2007, that’s the first time I actually thought it might be possible for this to become real.

Still, I can’t quite get over it.

JulieWaters

JulieWaters

Musician, photographer, web geek, activist, too much to explain here-- visit my website (juliewaters.com)

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