Spring 2009 - #13. Position Statement on Same-Sex Marriage.

 
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Vermont Bar Journal

2009.

Spring 2009 - #13.

Position Statement on Same-Sex Marriage

THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL Volume 35, No. 1 SPRING 2009

Position Statement on Same-Sex Marriage

The Vermont Human Rights Commission has been asked to take a position with respect to the issue of granting marital rights to same-sex couples. We first turn to the question of whether it is an appropriate use of the Commission's power to take a position on this subject. Since its creation by the Vermont Legislature in 1987, the Human Rights Commission has acted as a quasi-independent state agency focused solely on the protection of civil rights. The specific duties of the Commission are defined by 9 V.S.A. 4552(a), which states in pertinent part: "The commission shall endeavor through public education to increase awareness of the importance of full civil and human rights for each inhabitant of this state. The commission shall also examine and evaluate generally . . . the existence of practices of discrimination which detract from the enjoyment of full civil and human rights and shall recommend measures designed to protect those rights."

Charged with that mandate by the Vermont Legislature, the Commission therefore feels it is an appropriate use of our power to take a position on the question of same-sex marriage. After much consideration, taking into account all sides presented by this controversy, the Commission believes the legislature should extend marital rights to same-sex couples. The Commission's position is supported by the following discussion.

Vermont is a secular society founded in liberty. The fundamental basis of "liberty" is the right to be left alone and to enjoy the same rights and privileges as everyone else. Our secular government's primary responsibility is to protect the civil liberties of each individual, to treat each individual equally, and to prohibit infringement upon any person's enjoyment of the rights and privileges enjoyed by all. At the same time, government also has a responsibility to protect historical mores and traditional values to preserve a universal concept of society. This dual role is at the heart of the present controversy, as advocates of a disenfranchised class of individuals argue with advocates who seek to preserve historic tradition. To settle the argument, the Commission reached two conclusions...

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