Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vermont legalizes same sex marriage

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Vermont lawmakers on Tuesday overrode the governor's veto of a measure legalizing same-sex marriage, making the state the fourth to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed — but the first to do so through legislation.

Both houses of the Democratic-controlled Vermont Legislature mustered the necessary two-thirds vote to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto, issued just hours earlier. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House.

The move comes nine years after Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions for gay couples. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa also allow same-sex marriage after courts ruled gays could not be excluded.

The vote in Vermont was a major victory for gay marriage supporters, some of whom celebrated outside the House chamber as the vote was announced.

Robert Dostis said he and his partner, Chuck Kletecka, were making wedding plans for the fall. "We haven't decided who's going to propose to who yet, but we've been together 25 years in September, so I think Sept. 14 could be a nice wedding day," Dostis told NPR.

The veto's overturn follows an April 3 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court, which struck down a law limiting the definition of marriage to a man and a woman. The high court said the law violated the constitutional rights of equal protection. That ruling opens the door for gays and lesbians to exchange vows in Iowa as soon as April 24.

Iowa lawmakers had "excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification," the justices wrote.

From NPR staff and wire services