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Iowa and Vermont join Massachusetts and Connecticut in legalizing same-sex marriage

April was a good month for advocates of marriage equality and the rights of same-sex couples, with favorable legislation passing in four states.

On April 7, the Vermont House and Senate voted to override Republican governor Jim Douglas’ veto of a gay marriage bill. The vote marked the first time gay marriage has been legalized in a state through the formal legislative process and not as a result of court order. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa, gay marriage has been legalized following decisions by those states’ supreme courts.

“We applaud the eight fair-minded Republicans in the Vermont State Senate and House of Representatives who showed remarkable courage with their votes,” said Terry Hamilton, national chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans. “Today’s vote clearly demonstrates the need to work with Republicans and Democrats to achieve marriage equality.”

On April 23, the Iowa Supreme Court found that same-sex Iowa couples have the same right to marry as opposite-sex Iowa couples.

In Varnum vs. Brien , in which six Iowa couples filed suit seeking the extension of marital protections to their families, Iowa justices found that the constitution of the state of Iowa does not permit discrimination.

The ruling provides not only a benefit to Iowa’s families, but is also a boost to their state economy, according to Jon Hoadley, Stonewall Democrats executive director.

“In recent years, Iowa has long been afflicted by a ‘brain drain’, with a substantial portion of its young workforce moving to neighboring states for job opportunities,” Hoadley said. “Providing its workforce with the legal protections of marriage will help attract new investment and bring jobs back to the Hawkeye State.”

Hoadley added that the ruling secures the freedom of religious institutions to continue to marry and recognize relationships they so choose.

Iowa and Vermont join Massachusetts and Connecticut as states affording marriage equality to all its citizens.

On April 16, New York governor David Paterson, a Democrat, announced a marriage-equality bill for consideration by the state legislature.

Kevin Cathcart, executive director at Lambda Legal, said that victories in the Iowa marriage case and the veto override vote in Vermont indicates that it is time to end discrimination against same-sex couples in New York and beyond.

“The state assembly has passed a marriage-equality bill in the past; the governor is prepared to sign it; and both U.S. senators from New York support marriage equality,” Cathcart said. “It is time for the state assembly and senate to vote yes for equality, and finish the job.”

On April 15, the Washington state legislature passed a bill expanding the rights and responsibilities associated with the state’s domestic-partnership registry, with Governor Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, expected to sign it. The House passed the legislation with a 62–35 vote, following the Senate’s passage on March 11 by a 30–18 vote.

The measure brings health care and other critical protections to same-sex couples in Washington state.

“While clearly not a substitute for legal marriage, it is a step in the right direction,” said Rea Carey, executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Carey congratulated local equality organizations for their contribution to the bill’s passage, adding, “We look forward to the day when full legal marriage is a reality for same-sex couples in Washington state.”

Despite the flurry of positive legislation, April’s news was not all positive for advocates of marriage equality in all states. Jim Gibbons, governor of Nevada, vowed to veto a just-introduced measure to grant marriage-like rights to his state’s same-gender couples. When asked why he would reject the measure now under consideration in the state Senate, Gibbons stated, “I just don’t believe in it.”

In 2005, Texas voters approved an amendment to Texas’ state constitution, reading, “Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” The amendment remains intact.   – Nancy Ford

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