Civil Unions in Vermont
GLAD’s Role in Winning Civil Unions
GLAD represented the plaintiff couples in Baker v. State, the landmark case that set the stage for the passage of civil union legislation the following year, together with co-counsel Beth Robinson and Susan Murray of the Vermont law firm Langrock, Sperry, & Wool.
A Momentous Legal Victory!
Thanks to the December 20, 1999 ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court in Baker v. State and the subsequent work of the Vermont state legislature, which enacted the civil union law in response to the court decision, same-sex couples are now able to enter into “civil unions” in the State of Vermont.
A civil union is a comprehensive legal status parallel to civil marriage for all purposes under Vermont state law. According to the Vermont civil union law, spouses in a civil union will enjoy the same state law protections and responsibilities as are available to spouses in a marriage.
Click here for the Court’s decision in Baker v. State
“The extension of the Common Benefits Clause to acknowledge plaintiffs as Vermonters who seek nothing more, nor less, than legal protection and security for their avowed commitment to an intimate and lasting human relationship is simply, when all is said and done, a recognition of our common humanity.” —Chief Justice Amestoy
Click here for the “Civil Unions” bill as passed by the VT Legislature
“The purpose of this act is to respond to the constitutional violation found by the Vermont Supreme Court in Baker v. State, and to provide eligible same-sex couples the opportunity to ‘obtain the same benefits and protections afforded by Vermont law to married opposite-sex couples’ as required by Chapter I, Article 7th of the Vermont Constitution.”
Information About Civil Unions
GLAD has authored a publication called A Historic Victory: Civil Unions for Same-Sex Couples, an important resource for people looking for information about civil unions. Available online and by calling GLAD, it includes sections on the following topics:
- Legal Status of Vermonters Entering into a Civil Union
- Legal Status of Non-Vermonters Entering into a Civil Union
- What Would it Mean if My Partner and I Enter into a Civil Union?
- What is the Effect of a State’s So-Called “mini-DOMA” Law on a Civil Union?
- How Can I best Protect My Family?
- Legal Status of Civil Union Under Federal Law
- Your Role: Changing People’s Minds
- The Nuts and Bolts of How to Get a License
- Fighting Discrimination Against Civil Unions.
A Good First Step
Civil unions were a good first step, but they do not go far enough. Civil unions create separate institutions for different groups of people and do not provide access to federal protections. Same-sex couples want and need what everyone else has—the right to receive the full protections bestowed by the state and federal government that come through marriage.
GLAD continues to play a leading role in the struggle for equal marriage, working with grassroots Freedom to Marry organizations, serving as co-counsel in Baker v. State, winning equal marriage rights in Massachusetts in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.