Important: Vermont & Related News

Michael Shell brightcrow at InfoAve.Net
Fri Jan 7 14:50:59 JEST 2000

>Date: Fri, 07 Jan 2000 11:03:00 -0700
>From: Kay Whitlock <whitlock at>
>Subject: Important:  Vermont & Related News
>To: whitlock at
>Friends, this came in yesterday and represents an important assessment from
>the point of view of the attorney who was co-counsel in Baker v. State of
>Vermont.  Please read it carefully.  Among the requests Mary Bunauto is
>making is that non-Vermonters NOT flood the Governor's office with more
>phone calls. Since I had forwarded on a sincere request to do just that --
>and since I myself emailed the Governor's office -- I thought I should send
>this on, too. None of us who have done so need feel that we've done
>something wrong, but perhaps it will help to distribute Mary's assessment
>as widely as possible, too.
>To emphasize her response to the alerts circulating on the Internet, here
>is an excerpt from the end of her memo:  " One thing that is NOT helpful is
>for non-Vermonters to call the Governor or Legislature.  The Governor's
>office has now been flooded with calls from people supporting us (after a
>batch of Dr. Laura-inspired calls) and they are getting annoyed with
>everyone.  Please disregard emails you have received from whatever source
>asking you to call the Governor's office."
>In the meantime, please be aware that the AFSC continues to be engaged in
>this struggle in the ways that are most appropriate for us.  In AFSC's East
>Bay Office (Oakland), Lena-Nsomeka Gomes is doing excellent work in
>organizing to oppose the notorious Knight Initiative in California, an
>initiative prohibiting recognition of same-gender marriages sponsored by
>the same folks who have opposed immigrant rights, affirmative action,
>multiculturalism in education, etc.  AFSC Hawai'i staff (Kyle Kajihiro and
>Camaron Miyamoto)and I have been discussing the need to write about and
>disseminate our learnings and lessons from the freedom to marry for
>same-gender couples struggle there. We will pursue this, in conjunction
>with Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiian) friends and allies.
>  At the end of January, several AFSC representatives (Lena-Nseomeka Gomes;
>Joe Franko, Director of AFSC's Pacific Southwest Region; David Carter, LGBT
>program staff from Ann Arbor) will join me in Orange County, CA at the
>upcoming meeting of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable.  Our
>beloved friend Ku'umeealoha Gomes, of Na Mamo O Hawai'i, will also be
>there.  With our dear colleague Mab Segrest (and others) from Urban-Rural
>Mission (USA) of the World Council of Churches, we are working to help
>shape discussions on spiritual frameworks for our work (as individuals and
>as a Roundtable); sacramental relationships, beloved community, and social
>justice; and putting our spiritual beliefs concerning justice into
>practice.  An evening event will focus on roles religious and spiritual
>communities can play in working to defeat the Knight Initiative.
>As always, the focus of AFSC's efforts will be on the interrelationship,
>the interconnectedness, of struggles for racial, cultural, gender,
>economic, and LGBT justice.  Substantive and deep recognition of these
>interrelationships has largely been missing in the major campaigns for
>freedom to marry for same-gender couples, and we hope to play a
>constructive, useful role in showing, from our own experience, why this
>recognition is so important -- and how it can help build just and beloved
>I send you all good wishes for a New Year filled with all good things of
>the heart.  We continue to face many challenges.  May we meet them with
>intrepid spirit, grace, compassion, persistence, and wisdom.
>In love and struggle,
>To:	Freedom to Marry Allies
>From:	Mary Bonauto, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, co-counsel in
>Baker case
>Re:	Vermont Update
>Date:	1/6/00
>Now that the initial flurry from the ruling is over, we wanted to thank you
>for the outpouring of support, let you know what is going on in Vermont and
>answer the question of  what you can do.
>1.	Marriage is On the Table in Vermont
>We want to correct a misperception that the Court endorsed ìdomestic
>partnershipî or some alternative to civil marriage.  Thatís simply not
>true.  The Court did not reach the issue of how to remedy the
>discrimination.  It left that issue to the Legislature, and made clear that
>allowing issuance of marriage licenses is a definite way to satisfy the
>Courtís ruling.
>The thrust of the Courtís ruling is that all Vermonters must receive the
>protections and benefits which flow from civil marriage.  We are confident
>that when the Legislature studies the issue, it will conclude the only way
>to do this is to include same-sex couples in the civil marriage laws.
>2.	What the Legislature is Saying
>Some politicians rushed to judgment about a ìdomestic partnershipî
>alternative to marriage.  It now looks like that  was only a first reaction
>which is changing with time.
>For example, although Governor Howard Dean initially came out in favor of
>domestic partnership, he has now stated ìThis year we must make every
>effort to comply with the new Supreme Court ruling, which confirms that all
>Vermonters -- including gay and lesbian Vermonters -- are to have equal
>benefits under the law.  We were the first state to outlaw slavery in 1777,
>and we will remain in the forefront of the struggle for equal justice under
>law.î  (State of the State Address, 1/5/00).
>House and Senate leaders and members, including the Republican Chair of the
>House Judiciary Cte. which will be conducting hearings on the decision,
>clearly understand that amending the marriage laws to include same-sex
>couples is an option for them (Memorandum of Rep. Tom Little, 1/5/00).
>Even today, the powerful Chair of the Senate Appropriations Cte. endorsed
>marriage saying ìIt seems ludicrous to me to have the exact same listing of
>rights and benefits for same sex and heterosexual couples, but have
>different names for the commitment process.î  (Letter of Sen. Jeb
>Spaulding, 1/6/00).
>People are beginning to hear our message that separate is not equal.  We
>will work with the Legislature and share with them our information about
>the ìportabilityî of marriage, how marriage is a gateway to third party
>benefits like health and pension benefits from private employers, how
>marriage is a gateway to federal benefits and protections, and why marriage
>would be simpler, less confusing and less costly than a new elaborate
>alternative to marriage.
>3.	What the Legislature is Doing
>The House Judiciary Cte. will begin hearings on Jan. 11.  They are truly
>citizen legislators and extremely conscientious and hard working.  They are
>keeping an open mind about how to proceed.
>The first witness is one of the co-counsel in the case, Susan Murray.
>Other persons whom the Cte. will ask to testify include the Attorney
>General, the heads of state agencies, an attorney who represented the
>Catholic and Mormon Churches in a friend of the Court brief, various
>scholars, and others.
>The Court did not set a deadline by when the Legislature must act.
>Instead, it asked the Legislature to act ìin a reasonable time.î  We know
>our opponents want to delay, and at least some of them want to do so to
>give the extremist right wing time to move their machinery into Vermont.
>But justice delayed in justice denied, and every day this lingers is a day
>our clients and all lesbian and gay Vermonters remain vulnerable under the
>4.	The Vermont Freedom to Marry Action Committee
>Since 1995, a group of Vermonters have been educating their fellow citizens
>about the freedom to marry for same sex couples through the Vermont Freedom
>to Marry Task Force  (  A sister organization, the
>Action Committee, is heading up the lobbying effort.  Contact them at
>vfmac at
>The Action Cte. has hired two lobbying firms:  one with deep connections
>throughout the State and another with deep connections in the gay
>community.  They are consummate professionals and know the Vermont
>Legislature well.  Both believe we have a real shot at marriage.  They are
>on track and doing all the things you would expect. they need to do.
>5.	How You Can Help
>We all appreciate the wave of support and good wishes weíve received from
>around the country.
>If you live in Vermont, please get in touch with the Action Cte. as soon as
>possible at P.O. Box 1038, Middlebury, VT  05753.  An email contact is
>vfmac at
>If you do not live in Vermont, you can help the Action Cte. in 3 ways.
>One is to send money to ìVermont Freedom to Marry Action Cte.î at the above
>address.  Sending money will help allow the Vermont folks to do the work
>they need to do.
>Second, you can call people you know in VT and talk to them about these
>issues.  Ask them to get in touch with the Action Cte. and to call and
>write to their elected representatives.
>Third, you can continue to do work on this issue in your HOME STATE.
>Vermont has made as much progress as it has because Vermonters talked with
>their fellow community members about their lives and why they should have
>the freedom to marry.  It makes a difference -- even if youíre in a state
>with a so-called ìmini-DOMA.î  The extremist right has renewed efforts on
>enacting anti-marriage and anti-gay marriage laws in a variety of states:
>it is vital to defeat those efforts, and to win in California.   Please
>contact your local state or regional organization, or the clearinghouse for
>the National Freedom to Marry Coalition at ewolfson at
>One thing that is NOT helpful is for non-Vermonters to call the Governor or
>Legislature.  The Governor's office has now been flooded with calls from
>people supporting us (after a batch of Dr. Laura-inspired calls) and they
>are getting annoyed with everyone.  Please disregard emails you have
>received from whatever source asking you to call the Governor's office.
>Best wishes, and please donít hesitate to contact GLAD if you have
>concerns or questions.
>Mary L. Bonauto, Esq.
>Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
>294 Washington St., Suite 740
>Boston, MA  02108-4608
>(617) 426-1350
>fax (617) 426-3594
>email: mbonauto at
>Kay Whitlock
>Special Representative for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Programs
>Community Relations Unit
>American Friends Service Committee
>My telecommuting contact information:
>409 S. Curtis Street
>Missoula, MT 59801
>Telephone: 406-721-7844
>Fax: 406-728-2527
>E-mail: whitlock at
>To contact the national AFSC office:
>GLBT Programs
>Community Relations Unit
>1501 Cherry Street
>Philadelphia, PA 19102
>Telephone: 215-241-7127

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