One of the pleasurable by-products of teaching seminars around the nation is that I get to meet so many wonderful people and see beautiful parts of this magnificent country. Such was the case recently in Vermont, where, on July 1 st , we held a seminar with a number of people in Montpelier. However, in contrast to the Founders principles that were taught that day, Vermont was experiencing a tragedy.
On that very day, the newly passed law legalizing "civil unions" between homosexual couples went into effect. The press went wild, giving full, front-page coverage to this "historic" event. Homosexuals from Vermont and other states entered government offices that were kept open just for this occasion, to obtain a license so they could finally have their unions legally performed. Headlines in the Burlington Free Press declared, "In towns across Vermont, men and women unite; now they're ready to test new rights in other states".
This is a most serious situation and should concern not only the citizens of Vermont, but citizens in every state of this nation. Two decades ago, Vermont was targeted by the homosexuals. It is a small state with only 600,000 people. Most of the people are independent and live in other than populated areas. Over the past 15-20 years, judgeships and legislative positions were targeted without much notice to an apathetic citizenry. When the homosexuals felt they had enough strength in those positions they made their move. Even some in the public schools are now beginning to develop new curriculum that will teach increasing acceptance of this now legal lifestyle.
So that all may know the tactics used in Vermont, I am including below a description of just how it happened, written by an attorney in Vermont. Every state in this union is somewhere on this same timeline to disaster. Hopefully, by hearing the Vermont story, citizens in other states can wake up to their own state's awful situation. I have added a few comments and inserted headings for clarity.
The Civil Truth About " Civil Unions"
Vermont has legalized quasi-marriage for same-sex couples.
Will other states be forced to follow?
By David Orgon Coolidge
Starting July 1, any two adults not closely related by blood can enter into a "civil union" in Vermont. They must apply for a license and recruit a member of the clergy or a justice of the peace to conduct a ceremony and sign their license, whereupon the town clerk will duly register their union.
If this sounds familiar, it should. It's marriage by another name. A same-sex couple in a civil union will be all but married under Vermont law. If anyone treats a civil union differently from a marriage, that person will be guilty of discrimination on the basis of marital status. Starting January 1, 2001, all insurance policies offered in Vermont must treat civil unions and marriages identically. It is unclear whether the religious exemption added to the civil unions bill at the last moment will have teeth.
While You Were Sleeping
How did this happen? At the time the legislature was crafting this innovation, only 40 percent of Vermonters favored extending the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. The bill itself was pushed through the legislature in the space of less than two months. Yet its enactment was no chance development.
The long march to legitimize homosexuality in Vermont began 15 years ago, with the formation of the state Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1985. The coalition's annual conferences, along with the Gay and Lesbian newspaper, Out in the Mountains , which began publication in 1986, were important in promoting the cause. Their efforts found a receptive audience in the pervasively liberal Vermont political establishment. They first bore legislative fruit with the enactment of a wide-ranging anti-discrimination law in 1992.
Around the same time, the Vermont Law School began to hold annual conferences on "Sexual Orientation and the Law" where gay and lesbian attorneys and activists networked. Also in the early nineties, a number of prominent employers in the state, of which Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream is only the best known, began to offer domestic partnerships benefits. The state of Vermont took this step in 1991. The town of Burlington followed in 1993, and the town of Middlebury in 1995.
The second big legal victory for the gay community came in the courts with significant assistance from Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), a Boston law firm active across New England. In a landmark decision in 1993, the Vermont Supreme Court held that existing adoption law permitted "second-parent" adoptions by same-sex partners. In 1995, the legislature amended the adoption code to make this explicit (although it did so under the rubric of "unmarried" persons, rather than specifying same-sex partners).
Vermont, of course, was not the only state where the gay lobby was making headway. In Hawaii, attempts to legalize same-sex marriage were foiled when the state legislature voted in April 1997 to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot reaffirming traditional marriage. The amendment ultimately passed, but in the meantime, on July 22, 1997, three homosexual couples filed suit in Vermont claiming that the "common benefits clause" of the state constitution entitled them to full coverage under the marriage statute. The suit, Baker v. Vermont , was announced online jointly by GLAD and the New York-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Lambda had been co-counsel in a similar suit in Hawaii; GLAD became co-counsel in Vermont.
Judicial Activism Reinterprets the Constitution
In December 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court, pointing to the enactment of the anti-discrimination law and the revised adoption code, ruled for the plaintiffs. Under the Vermont constitution, the court held, committed same-sex couples must be given the same legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities as married couples.
(Editorial comment: Article 7 of the Vermont state constitution declares, "That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit , protection, and security of the people, nation or community, and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single man, family, or set of men who are a part only of that community.." In the Baker v Vermont case the state supreme court declared that the "common benefit" clause really means "common benefit s ", thus two people of the same sex have claim to the same "benefits" as those who are married. This is a deliberate attempt to change the meaning of "common benefit" which was originally to mean that any government should be for the "common good " of all people. This revisionist interpretation parallels that which has been done to the meaning of "general welfare" in our U. S. Constitution. Also, in my own state of Arizona, our state supreme court recently arrogantly proclaimed that the words "general and uniform education" in our state constitution means that the state should pay for and regulate all education in the state.)
The Vermont Supreme Court left it to the legislature, however, to decide how to accomplish this.
To grasp what it means to "leave something to the legislature" in Vermont, one has to appreciate certain logistical realities. There are 150 representatives and 30 senators, none of whom, except the Senate president and the Speaker of the House, has an office. To reach a legislator, you leave a message with the sergeant at arms or call the legislator at home. Each committee chairman gets a clerk and a committee room, but the typical committee room can hold the committee, one witness, and 5 to 10 chairs. Legislators have no personal staff; for drafting bills, they rely on a pool of staff attorneys, as well as on research and drafts supplied by various lobbies.
A Majority of Vermonters Opposed Such "Civil Unions"
Legislators, nonetheless, are accountable to the voters as appointed justices are not, and in the aftermath of the Baker decision, polls showed 52 percent of Vermonters disagreed with the court. The governor, Democrat Howard Dean, declared himself "uncomfortable" with same-sex marriage, but "committed" to equal rights; his Commission on Women had recently honored two of the lesbian plaintiffs. Given the climate of opinion, the Speaker of the House and president of the Senate, although both were Democrats and on the record in favor of same-sex marriages, deferred to their judiciary committees to fashion the legislation suggested by the court. Both committees were headed by well-meaning liberals with vice chairmen eager to move the issue forward. Both committees voted against legalizing same-sex "marriage," as did the full House. Having thus "taken marriage off the table," they proceeded to explore the option of same-sex "civil unions." For most liberals (in both parties) who had dominated state politics for a generation, this new terminology offered the perfect means of complying with the court's ruling. Conservatives had a much harder task: to stop either the courts or the legislature from going further down the path of mainstreaming homosexuality. As in Hawaii, the only means of doing this was a constitutional amendment.
The House committee held its hearings first, in January and February. Some sessions, at the statehouse, were the usual parade of scheduled speakers; others, held at various locations, were an opportunity for ordinary citizens to speak.
Bureaucrats, Lawyers, Big Business, Press Against the People
Those testifying in favor of same-sex unions included members of the Dean administration (the commerce secretary assured the committee that civil unions would have no impact on tourism, and the insurance commissioner gave similar assurances on benefits issues), Vermont Law School professors, a plethora of psychiatrists, social workers, and public health personnel, and a representative from Blue Cross-Blue Shield, who said his firm would obey the law. "Progressive" business people chimed in with a newspaper ad in favor of civil unions.
The proponents' arguments, all of which were present or implicit in the court's ruling in Baker , were of four main types: procedural, factual, moral, and legal.
The procedural claim was that the court had spoken, and the legislature should obey. Some argued that the court was the official interpreter of the constitution, and the legislature should defer as a matter of principle. Others argued pragmatically that if the legislature did not give the court what it demanded, the court (which had taken the unusual step of keeping the case open before it) might do something worse. This was a powerful threat.
The factual claim was that many lesbians and gays in Vermont have committed relationships and are raising children. They work hard, pay taxes, and so forth. Extending marital benefits, protections, and responsibilities to them would strengthen Vermont.
The moral claim was that sexual orientation is irrelevant to marriage, and what people do sexually is purely a private matter that is nobody's business. The essence of marriage is love, commitment, trust, and forgiveness, as one senator put it. The social institution of marriage is intended to encourage fidelity and family stability.
Finally, the legal argument was that the Vermont constitution is committed to inclusion; that pursuing equality and fighting discrimination are the heart of Vermont's political tradition.
The uniformly liberal press repeated these arguments endlessly. The AP reporter assigned to the story, Ross Sneyd, had served on the board of Out in the Mountains . Reporters and editorial writers for the Rutland Herald and Burlington Free Press attacked the Roman Catholic Church and caricatured civil union opponents as bigots.
As the debate unfolded, supporters of civil unions changed their tactics, morphing from liberal reformers advancing the rights of individuals into Burke-quoting conservatives upholding the rule of law. By their account, the people of Vermont had become a tyrannical majority, and the defenders of traditional marriage were radicals who wanted to yield to mob rule.
Churches and People Are Too Little and Too Late
But what about the opponents of civil unions? Consider their state of organization on December 20, 1999, the day the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Baker .
Churches were the primary focus of opposition, but they were not, and did not aspire to be, political players. Nor did the opposition enjoy an organizational base in pre-existing public policy groups. Vermont had no Catholic Conference or family policy council, not even a tiny chapter of some national pro-marriage organization. There were some pro-life groups, and some supporters of school choice, all of whom were out of favor with the legislature. There was only one state think tank, the Ethan Allen Institute, a critic of judicial activism.
To fill the gap, a secular citizens group, Take It to the People (TIP), had been formed in 1998 in response to the filing of the Baker suit. TIP and its sympathizers generated amicus briefs in support of the marriage law. They put up booths at state fairs. And they held their first big fund-raising dinner in November 1999, only a month before the court spoke.
Neither TIP nor the churches had a regular presence at the statehouse. As a result, when the legislative session opened in January 2000, legislators and their staffs saw TIP as a total stranger to the process and a sinister intruder. The fact that TIP was calling for a pro-marriage constitutional amendment strained matters further. TIP hired William Shouldice & Associates, a top-notch lobbying firm, but it did so only in February, long after the other side had hired the comparable firm of Kimball, Sherman & Ellis.
Despite the odds, TIP and its religious allies mobilized significant opposition to civil unions. They chose articulate spokesmen and turned out large crowds for two rallies at the statehouse. The first of the citizen hearings, held in Montpelier during a snowstorm, drew an estimated 1,200 people, and the second, a week later, drew 1,800, according to the Burlington Free Press . A New York Times reporter likened the turnout to 90,000 citizens showing up for a rally in Albany."
In my observations of state governments around this country, surely every state is somewhere along the same path that Vermont has traveled. Many of us know of homosexuals currently in judicial and legislative positions in our own and other states. Do you know where your state is on this path?
History will bear out the fact that God draws the line with homosexuality. No nation will endure long which embraces this crime against nature and nature's God. If there was ever a wake-up call to Americans, this surely is it.
Earl Taylor, Jr.