- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2000

As Vermont lawmakers wrestle with a judicial mandate to give marriagelike legal benefits to homosexual couples, a dozen states are considering whether to outlaw same-sex "marriage."
Eight states have bills that would outlaw recognition of homosexual "marriage." Two of these bills one in Missouri and one in New Hampshire were introduced two days after the Vermont Supreme Court decision.
Locally, Virginia lawmakers passed a law in 1997 saying the state doesn't recognize homosexual "marriages."
Maryland lawmakers have considered bills on both sides some have called for recognition of such unions, others have opposed but nothing has passed.
No bills have been introduced on homosexual "marriage" in the District of Columbia, according to Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a group that tracks this issue.
Vermont lawmakers have been thrust into the forefront of this issue since the Vermont Supreme Court ruled Dec. 20 that homosexual couples are entitled to the "common benefits and protections" of marriage.
The court told the state legislature to find a way to assign these benefits, through domestic partnerships, "marriages" for homosexuals, or some other approach.
Although some scholars question whether the ruling overstepped the court's bounds, lawmakers have been acting on the mandate since they convened this month. They already face competing bills: One bill upholds traditional marriage while another says the state should license marriages without regard to gender.
The House Judiciary Committee, one of the committees charged with drafting Vermont's new law on benefits to homosexual couples, has already had two weeks of testimony from witnesses.
On Tuesday night, leaders from the House and Senate judiciary committees held their first public hearing. Despite a snowstorm, more than 1,000 people jammed the statehouse to offer their views.
A second public hearing has been scheduled for tomorrow
At the first hearing, traditional marriage supporters wore white ribbons and armbands and waved signs saying, "Don't Mock Marriage," said Mary Schroyer, a leader of Take It to the People.
Supporters of homosexual "marriage," rallied by the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, wore stickers that said, "I Support the Freedom to Marry," said Deborah Lashman, a Burlington, Vt., lawyer and board member of the task force.
Confirming a split that many legislators have sensed since the court ruled, a new poll showed 52 percent of Vermont residents surveyed opposed the state Supreme Court's ruling, while 38 percent agreed and 10 percent said they weren't sure. The poll of 623 registered voters had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
Meanwhile, the California electorate will vote in March on Proposition 22, which calls for the state to recognize marriages only between one man and one woman. Voters in Nevada and Colorado may soon have a chance to vote on constitutional amendments banning same-sex "marriage."
The Vermont court ruling could have national implications because states are required to recognize each other's legal acts, including marriages.
During the 1990s, when it appeared that Hawaii courts might legalize same-sex "marriage," states began passing laws saying they would not recognize same-sex unions from out of state.
To date, 30 states, including Hawaii, have taken legal action to either uphold traditional marriage or outlaw homosexual "marriage."
Congress and President Clinton also passed the Defense of Marriage Act, clarifying that in federal law, marriage means the legal union of one man and one woman.

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