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Commission Releases Same-Sex Marriage Report

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Montpelier, Vermont - April 21, 2008

After eight months of public hearings and legal forums, a special commission released its report on same-sex marriage. The commission did not make a recommendation about whether Vermont should legalize gay marriage, but it did conclude there is a significant difference between marriage and civil unions.

The commission heard from literally hundreds of people during eight public hearings, and one legal forum. It took all those opinions and basically boiled them down into nine findings and three recommendations.

In it's final report to the legislature, the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection finds that there is a significant difference between the rights and responsibilities granted to same-sex couples through civil unions, and heterosexual couples through civil marriage.

"The commission recommends that Vermont take seriously the difference between civil marriage and civil union," said chair of the Vt. Commission on Family Recognition & Protection, Tom Little.

While it stopped short of making a recommendation about whether the state should proceed with granting same-sex marriages, the commission does suggest there is a legal basis for it.

"Providing statutory access to marriage would be a clearer and more direct statement of full equality by the state a statement of full inclusion of its gay and lesbian residents," said Little.

Overall, the commission found that Vermonters with civil unions feel they are not being granted the full rights promised in Act 91-- the act that established civil unions.

Supporters of same-sex marriage say that is reason for the state to act on this report and move forward with gay marriage during next year's legislative session.

"What they did do, is they systematically recounted what they heard and I don't think you can systematically review the evidence and not conclude that there is no good reason to keep gay and lesbian Vermonters separate and legally inferior to our heterosexual counterparts," said Beth Robinson of the Vt. Freedom to Marry Task Force.

And while the commission found an overwhelming majority of those who testified at the public hearings support gay marriage, opponents say that is only because they boycotted the meetings.

"We're coming out with our own report, the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council, and it will be based on international and national experts and 20 years worth of research on this issue," said Stephen Cable of Vt. Renewal, Inc.

This report is now in the hands of lawmakers who must decide how to move forward with its recommendations.

The commission also found there are more questions to be studied, for example; can the state's tax structure be changed through a statute to ease the burden that civil union couples face in preparing and filing returns?

Click here to read the entire report of the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection for yourself.

Bianca Slota - WCAX News