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No same-sex rush for weddings yet
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) | Bed-and-breakfast owner Jeff Connor was hoping for a boomlet in business once Vermont opened the door for same-sex couples to marry.
The law takes effect Tuesday, but he’s still waiting. So far, he has only one wedding celebration planned at the 11-unit Grunberg Haus, in Waterbury. It’s for Sept. 8.
“I guess the word’s still getting around out there,” said Mr. Connor, who runs the inn with wife Linda.
Unlike the rush that followed Vermont’s adoption of civil unions in 2000, the state’s adoption of same-sex marriage hasn’t helped the state’s finances much. And it may not.
City and town clerks across Vermont have issued only a handful of licenses. The adoption of gay marriage in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa has diluted what was once Vermont’s monopoly - and a tourism draw.
“It’s not like what it was when civil unions went into effect,” said Manchester Town Clerk Linda Spence, a justice of the peace who officiated at some. “Of course, we were the first state, so that made the draw much bigger.”
In Manchester, a southern Vermont town whose picturesque old buildings, mountain vistas and upscale shopping make it a wedding destination (there were 101 last year), no gay couples have plunked down the $45 fee for the marriage licenses, which are good for 60 days from the date of issue.
Ditto for Brattleboro and for Montpelier, the state capital.
“I haven’t given out any yet, but I’ve heard from three couples who are going to be coming in,” Ms. Spence said. “Two of the couples - one of them is from Australia - got civil unions from me, and they’re coming back for a marriage. It makes me feel good.”
The wedding preparations have been slow elsewhere, too.
In Burlington, the state’s largest city, only three licenses have been issued for post-Sept. 1 weddings involving gay couples. In Rutland, four licenses have been issued, said City Clerk Henry Heck.
“I know the ladies here have received phone calls inquiring, thinking it was a done deal now,” Mr. Heck said. “We tell them it doesn’t take effect until September 1. There’s interest out there. I think more will apply shortly thereafter, but I’m not sure how big the turnout will be.”
It’s a sharp contrast to 2000.
After the civil-unions law took effect on July 1, 2000, there were 1,704 civil unions established in the next six months, including 405 in July alone. Out-of-state residents accounted for 78 percent of them - with most involving people from New York, Massachusetts and California, according to state vital records. Nearly 69 percent were between female partners.
The slow start to the same-sex-marriage law may also be rooted in timing. When the legislature adopted the law in April, it set Sept. 1 as the effective date, thereby missing out on the summer wedding season.
The five-month gap between the adoption of gay marriage and its effective date also has kept it out of the spotlight.
“My guess is that members of the gay community are assuming that on September 1, they can come in to get the license so that they can have a fall marriage,” said Secretary of State Deborah L. Markowitz. “I expect that after September 1, it’s going to pick up.”
Beth Robinson, a Middlebury lawyer who spearheaded the pushes for civil unions and then gay marriage in Vermont, says there isn’t the “pent-up demand” for same-sex marriage that there was for civil unions. In the intervening years, people have obtained civil unions here or marriages in other states.
Meanwhile, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream is marking the occasion in typical fashion. They’re renaming their “Chubby Hubby” flavor “Hubby Hubby” for the month.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
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