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April 2009

April 07, 2009

Gay Marriage Comes to Vermont

It's official.

The Vermont House votes 100-49 to override the governor's veto of the gay marriage bill.

Gay marriage is coming to Vermont.


Here's a statement from Peter Shumlin, President Pro Tem of the Senate. Boy, he didn't waste any time in getting this out:

“Today Vermont legislators did the right thing by overriding Governor Douglas’ veto and granting equal rights to all Vermonters. The struggle for equal rights is never easy.  I was proud to be President of the Senate nine years ago when Vermont led the country by creating civil unions.  Today is another historic day for Vermont and I have never felt more proud as we become the first state in the country to enact marriage equality not as the result of a court order, but because it is the right
thing to do.”

"Many thanks to all the Vermonters who participated in this debate, Vermont Freedom to Marry, MassEquality, the Human Rights Campaign, and everyone who helped make today's victory possible."

Same-Sex Marriage Vote: Today's the Big Day

Today, the Vermont Senate and House will consider whether to override Governor Douglas' veto of the same-sex marriage bill. Shay Totten is at the Statehouse covering the proceedings on Twitter.

Click here to follow his updates.

A sample of his posts so far:

  • Speaker Shap Smith said moments ago, "this will be the smallest needle I've ever threaded" if veto override is successful #vtfreetomarry
  • #vt Senators are beginning to enter the chamber - this first veto should be quick (famous last words) #vtfreetomarry
  • VT Senate is now in session and are beginning the orders of the day #vtfreetomarry

You can also listen to live coverage on VPR. They'll be covering the topic on Vermont Edition today, too.

Here's a video stream, courtesy of CCTV. And another, courtesy of WPTZ.

And the Burlington Free Press has live video, and a live blog hosting a chat.

Here's a marriage supporter blogging at the RU12? Community Center site.

Plenty of ways to stay informed on this one...

April 06, 2009

Everything's kosher down at Burlington Electric

You could say Burlington Electric Department excels in public relations — or maybe it answers to a higher power. Either way, the utility did the right thing this week when it delayed some scheduled repairs that would have inconvenienced scores of its Jewish customers observing this week’s Passover holiday.

On Monday, Sue Schein, a conservative Jew living in the Five Sisters neighborhood, received a flyer on her doorstep from BED notifying her that electricity would be shut off temporarily on Tuesday and/or Wednesday. That outage was scheduled for the same time Schein and other Jews throughout the city are preparing their traditional Passover meal. According to custom, Jews aren’t supposed to cook once the holiday itself begins. As Schein described it, “This was the equivalent of telling a Christian family that on Christmas they’d be off the grid.”

The outage’s timing would have been especially inconvenient, Schein explains, as observant Jews spend many hours, if not days, ritually cleaning and preparing their kitchens for the Passover meal preparation, a process known as “kashering.” As a result, it’s unlikely they would have been able to find another koshered kitchen in which to cook those meals.

Schein immediately alerted BED’s communications coordinator, Mary Sullivan, to the problem; within hours, Sullivan called back to say that BED would pass over the repairs until Friday, when the critical cooking period is over.

“She did not make the connection until I told her, but then she immediately got it,” Schein says about Sullivan. “She was very quick to understand.”

Vermont Businesses Urge Veto Override

A group of Vermont business owners have entered the fray over whether lawmakers should overturn an expected veto of the marriage equality legislation passed overwhelmingly recently by the Vermont House & Senate.

The House approved the measure Friday by a final vote of 94-52, while the Senate passed its version a week earlier by a wider 26-4 tally. The Senate is convening this afternoon to approve the House version of the bill, which made some minor corrections and clarified that religious institutions and clergy could not be sued for refusing to preside over a same-sex marriage.

The governor has promised legislative leaders a quick veto - tonight in fact - allowing both chambers to hold veto sessions tomorrow. First the Senate, and then the House. I'm told all could be wrapped up by lunchtime.

As of this afternoon, it's clear the Senate will have the votes to override a gubernatorial veto. It's unclear in the House, but backers are hopeful they can cross the 100-vote threshold. That is, if all 150 member show up. By law, a veto can be overturned by a two-thirds majority of those present.

It's coming down to the wire, folks. It's razor thin, and win or lose expect it to be within just a few votes. If it loses, though, the issue is likely to come back next session — if not sooner — as there would likely be a court challenge. Hey, if they can sue and win in Iowa, why not Vermont.

Here's the full text of the letter. Some surprise signatories (not the "usual suspects" as they say) are Win Smith of Sugarbush and the folks from the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The times they are a changin'.

We're writing to you today because your vote to override the Governor's veto of S. 115, An Act to Protect Religious Freedom and Promote Equality in Civil Marriage, affects the ability of all businesses in Vermont to recruit the talented people we need to ensure the continued development of vital businesses; the kind of businesses like those we lead, which pay wages and have long futures in our state.

As you know, most of the higher paid jobs in traditional manufacturing companies, at which many Vermonters worked, are gone. Jobs in the tool and die industry, the paper mills and the appliance factories are a small fraction of what they once were. They are being replaced by jobs in high tech, software development, specialty foods and the hospitality industry. These industries depend on a supply of smart, creative people to keep us ahead of our competitors.

Potential employees come in all sorts of colors, sizes and gender. We put forth our best offers to attract such people. We show them our beautiful state. We show them our wonderful schools. We show them the exceptional quality of life in Vermont.

Sometimes our efforts work. Sometimes they don't. Other states are beautiful. Other states have wonderful schools. Other states have exceptional quality of life.

Some of our potential employees are gay and lesbian. We put forth the same efforts with these people. Sometimes these efforts work. Sometimes they don't. Imagine if we could also tell them that in Vermont, the state recognizes their freedom to marry and enjoy all the rights and privileges associated with that commitment. That would give us an advantage that very few states have. The generation that we are trying to attract is different from ours. They don't care about racial, ethnic, gender or sexual orientation differences. They like living among people from diverse backgrounds. They gravitate to places where those differences make life more exciting.

You can help us attract the smartest, most talented, most creative members of the younger (also some older) generation. You can make sure that those who are gay and lesbian have the right to marry, and you can make sure that those who aren't have a social environment which includes those who are. You can ensure the leadership role Vermont has taken historically when it comes to equal human rights and freedom of choice, values that make us an extraordinary state.

You can do this by voting to override Governor Douglas' veto. Your vote will move Vermont forward economically. We know, because that cross section of people is what moves our businesses forward.

Just ask the leaders of the new Vermont business class. We'll be happy to tell you how freedom to marry makes Vermont a fair and just state, creating a better business climate.

Thanks for considering our request.

Don Mayer
CEO, Small Dog Electronics

Paul Millman
President, Chroma Technology

Walt Freese
CEO, Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

Jeffrey Hollender
President, Seventh Generation

Bill Schubart
Founder and Chair, Resolution, Inc.

Barbi and Paul Schulick
Founders, New Chapter, Inc.

David Sellers
Chairman, Mad River Rocket Co.
Sellers & Company

Mark Schulman
President, Goddard College

Scott Johnstone
Executive Director, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation

Win Smith
President, Sugarbush

Bill Church
President, Green Mountain Antibodies

Rich Kalich
President, Vermed

Susan M. Klein
Executive Director, Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce

Melinda Moulton
CEO, Main Street Landing

Pennie Beach
Owner, Basin Harbor Club

Russ Bennett
President, NorthLand Design & Construction, Inc.

Ellen Mercer Fallon, Esq.
Langrock Sperry & Wool, LLP

Rolf Kielman, AIA
Principal, TruexCullins, Architects

Monday Marriage Update

Today the Vermont Senate is expected to pass the final version of the same-sex marriage bill — they have to reconcile the bill they passed with the one passed last week by the House.

If everything shakes out as planned, the bill will go to the governor for approval at the end of the day today. He's promised to veto it quickly, which means that the Senate could take it up tomorrow as early as 9 a.m. The House could get to it around 10. Hard to say exactly, though.

"Fair Game" columnist Shay Totten will be heading down to Montpelier to cover the override debate and vote. He'll be posting updates to his Twitter feed. We'll stream the feed onto our homepage, and we'll have a link to it here on the blog.

This vote is going to be very, very close. And it hits close to home for me — not just because I'm gay, but also because my two Winooski representatives, Ken Atkins and Clem Bissonette, both voted against the marriage bill.

The Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force has been lobbying hard to convince them to switch their votes to override the governor's veto. I got a phone call over the weekend urging me to call my reps. And yesterday two Freedom to Marry volunteers showed up on our doorstep — Colin and Sarah, two of my straight neighbors! Their visit made my day.

I'm curious to see how it'll all turn out. Stay tuned...

Hockey notes from the 7D "Sports Desk"

At 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, the University of Vermont's men's hockey team faces off against Boston University in the first game of the NCAA "Frozen Four." (Basketball fans: That's a colder, slipperier version of your "final four" national tourney.) To help stir up interest in the game, UVM's web news editor, Amanda Kenyon Waite, has posted this excellent audio slideshow about Catamount hockey. Waite's slideshow includes an overview of this year's season and historical info about the program.

Thursday's game will be played at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. To wish our boys good luck in person, swing by the parking area between Patrick Gym and Gutterson Fieldhouse tomorrow between 12:30 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. For tips on where to watch the game, call Chris Wojcik of UVM Athletic Communications at 802-310-6102 or see this helpful website.

The hockey Cats' "Frozen Four" foray marks the team's second appearance at the prestigious event. The last time they played a Frozen Four game, in 1996, they lost 4-3 in double overtime to Colorado College. For more background on Thursday's game, check out this story in today's College Hockey News.

April 03, 2009

Iowa is Going to Beat Us? Seriously?

The Iowa Supreme Court has ordered the state to recognize same-sex marriages. This morning, the court upheld a lower court's 2007 ruling calling the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. That means gay Iowans will be able to marry soon — sounds like maybe by the end of the month.

But wait, what about civil unions? Couldn't Iowa just give gays civil unions instead of marriage?

Here's what Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady had to say about it, from an article in the Des Moines Register:

Iowa’s gay marriage ban “is unconstitutional, because the county has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage,” Cady wrote in the 69-page opinion that seemed to dismiss the concept of civil unions as an option for gay couples.

“A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution,” Cady wrote.

Are we really going to let these Midwestern cornhuskers beat us to the punch? This seems like a matter of pride to me. C'mon, Vermonters. Think about our reputation!

Same-Sex Marriage Bill -- Final Vote This Morning

The House passed the same-sex marriage bill 95-52 late last night, and will vote on it for a final time this morning at 9:30 a.m.

Shay Totten is headed to Montpelier to cover the proceedings.

Click here to read his updates on Twitter.

Here are some links to coverage of yesterday's emotional debate:

House Passes Gay Marriage (Burlington Free Press)
House Endorses Gay Marriage (VPR)
House Shouts Yes to Gay Marriage (Rutland Herald)
Gay Marriage Bill Poised for Veto (Reuters)
Vermont House Gives Preliminary OK to Gay Marriage (AP)
Vermont House Backs Gay Marriage (Wall Street Journal)

April 02, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage Debate Goes Late

9:30 p.m. UPDATE: The house voted tonight to pass the same-sex marriage bill, 95-52, but supporters needed 100 votes to override the governor's threatened veto. Legislators have to vote again tomorrow before the bill heads to the guv's desk.

Here's my post from earlier:

It's 7:45 p.m. as I write this, and the Vermont House is still at it down there in Montpelier, debating the same-sex marriage bill.

Shay Totten is doing a masterful job of Twittering the proceedings. Here are some excerpts from his Twitter feed this evening:

  • Rep. Bill Aswad (D-Burlington) I rise in support of bill - I was a strong supporter of civil union bill on April 25, 2000 #vtfreetomarry
  • Rep. Aswad: 90% of his district support #vtfreetomarry
  • Rep. Adams: Without act of congress, #vtfreetomarry bill is meaningless
  • Speaker Shap Smith calls House into recess until 7:15 says best to continue debate on a full stomach #vtfreetomarry
  • statewide referendum fails 96-52. #vtfreetomarry
  • Supporters of #vtfreetomarry handed out granola bars, water and oranges during the break - me? Cafeteria pizza & salad

Go Shay!

Click here to follow his updates on Twitter.

Click here for videos from WPTZ.

Pitcher Inn Tasting Menu & Wine Pairings

Last weekend I was lucky enough to have the tasting dinner at The Pitcher Inn in Warren. The article didn't give me room to list every course, so I thought I'd do it here...

N.V. Gaston Chiquet “Brut Tradition”

Mahogany Clam with Asian slaw and Black-Bean Sauce

2002 Domaine Foreau Vouvray Moelleux
Seared Foie Gras with Parsnip Purée and Vanilla Poached Apples
Butternut Squash and Taleggio Ravioli with Greek Yogurt, Marcona Almonds and Brown Butter

2004 Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuisse “Les Vernays”

Bibb Lettuce Salad with Spiced Walnuts, French Feta, Walnut Vinaigrette and Fried Parsnips
Spinach Salad with Pumpkinseed Roasted Winter Squash, Bacon and Crispy Shallots

2007 Domaine du Bagnols Cassis Blanc
Wild-Striped Bass with Mahogany Clams, Oven-Dried Tomatoes, Niçoise Olives, Capers & Potatoes

2004 Chateau Pesquie, Cotes du Ventoux “Quintessence”
Pan-Seared Venison Loin with Mustard Spaetzle, Braised Cabbage and Red-Wine-Prune Sauce

Feist 10-year-old Tawny Port
Robiola, Garrotxa and Bayley-Hazen Blue

1995 Domaine du Mas Blanc, Banyuls “Rimage Mise Tardive 1995”
Bittersweet Chocolate Pot de Crème with Toasted Marshmallow and Caramel Corn
Apple-Bread Pudding with Cream-Cheese Ice Cream and Rum Raisin Anglaise
Orange-Pernod Sorbet with Gingered Oranges and Bizcochitos

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

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