All eyes have moved to Vermont this week, following the State Senate’s overwhelming passage of a marriage equality bill on Monday. Talks are ongoing in the House of Representatives, where passage is expected as well. The big question mark on the whole affair has been whether it will have enough votes to withstand a veto from Governor Jim Douglas (R).
That was an academic question until this afternoon; it had been speculated that while Governor Douglas was against marriage equality, he wouldn’t veto the bill instead allowing it to pass without his signature. That all changed when he announced his intent to veto the marriage equality bill. Audio below, courtesy Vermont Public Radio, with a few excerpts of the transcription of the statement courtesy the Rutland Herald, interrupted by my response.
Again, below are chosen excerpts. To get the full transcript, see the link above.
The urgency of our stateâ€™s economic and budgetary challenges demands the full focus of every member and every committee of this Legislature. Ensuring that the federal recovery money is spent wisely, that the state budget is balanced and responsible, and that we do all we can to help our employers compete and create jobs is my top priority.
However, I recognize that legislative leaders have different priorities.
Nice dig at your opposition, Governor. Bravo.
So long as same-sex marriage consumes the time and energy of legislators, I will urge lawmakers to act quickly so they can turn their full focus to the economic needs of Vermonters as soon as possible.
Okay, so Governor Douglas has pulled out the old stand-by “We don’t have time” excuse. To begin with, the Senate took a week and the House is believed to be all but ready to vote by the end of this week. So, you know, two weeks isn’t a long time.
More importantly, why in the world would one think that civil rights should take the back burner? That’s a problem we’ve faced before, both in the LGBT community and in other civil rights struggles. “Just wait,” they say. “Wait, and once we this under control, we’ll get to your rights.”
And let’s just be honest, if it weren’t the economy, something else would appear that would be pushed as more important. It’s not good enough, Governor Douglas. Your constituents deserve better.
The question of same sex marriage is an issue that does not break cleanly as Republican or Democrat, rural or urban, religious or atheist. It is an intensely personal decision â€“ a decision informed by all of those things and many more â€“ an amalgam of experience, conviction and faith. These beliefs are deeply held, passionately expressed and, for many legislators, infinitely more complex than the ultimate ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ required to fulfill the duty of their office.
This covers a lot of catchphrases that we heard last year as the Religious Right prepped voters to feel okay about their vote. Let me put it plainly: I couldn’t give two shits about someone’s religious beliefs. They have no place in this discussion. That isn’t a “personal decision”, it’s the way the government is supposed to work.
Likewise, I don’t care how “deeply held” your convictions are. Guess what? Many people had the “deeply held” conviction that African Americans were less human than white Americans, that they should have separate bathrooms, that their children’s education was less important. Many had the “deeply held” conviction that women should live in submission to men, unable to inherit land or sign contracts. Heck, once upon a time, many had the “deeply held” conviction that women who might be witches should be murdered.
But those convictions were all laid aside in favor of reason and nonprejudicial order.
And frankly, no, it isn’t more complex than “yea” or “nay”. Take out all the junk and excuses that the Religious Right has come up with over the years and you have a simple question: Are we equal or are we unequal? This is one of those rare times that the choice really is binary.
For those on either side of the vote to sternly judge the otherâ€™s morality and conscience is the only true intolerance in this debate and is a disservice to all Vermonters.
No. Absolutely wrong. The proposition that one group is better or more deserving of respect, dignity, and full equal rights is one that should never be tolerated. It should be judged. It MUST be judged. The Constitution demands it.
I do judge your morality, Governor Douglas. I judge your conscience when it tells you that “deeply held beliefs” are more important than full equality for your constituents. I judge your service as a public servant. I judge your honor, sir. I judge your supposed Christian morals. I judge your humanity.
I judge these things, and I judge them wanting.
For those reasons and because I believe that by removing any uncertainty about my position we can move more quickly beyond this debate, I am announcing that I intend to veto this legislation when it reaches my desk.
It makes me sad, Governor Douglas. For nothing more than political expediency, you’re willing to sacrifice not only the equality of your constituents but your place in history. In a generation, people will look back at today’s statement and shake their heads. They’ll look at your silly arguments and rhetorical dodges with the same disdain as we look at the arguments made in 1957 by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus.
This is your legacy, Governor Douglas. I hope you’re ready for it.