Report from the General Assembly, Montpelier, Vermont - today

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    Apr 07, 2009 6:15 PM GMT
    My report from Montpelier, Vermont

    - 7:25 AM On the road in a cold light rain. A typical early April Vermont day
    - 7:35 AM Stopped for a coffee for the drive down to Montpelier.
    - 8:40 AM In Montpelier now, finally found a parking spot, 1/2 mile from the State House
    - 8:55 AM Get a seat on the floor of the Senate. Sitting right behind a Republican senator who surprised everyone and voted for the equal marriage legislation 2 weeks ago. It came out the following day, that his son was gay.
    - 9:15 AM Senate called to order. The first item was supposed to be the override of the governor's veto, but instead, other legislation was addressed.
    - 9:30 AM Discussion moves to a bill allowing more maple sugaring in state forests (yes, Vermont is all about maple sugar!) I sense something is wrong. I mention to the person sitting next to me, that "they are stalling for time, must be the House has not got enough votes lined up for the override", so the Senate will stall until the House leadership thinks it can reach 100 votes. About 5 minutes later someone confirms that fear. There are not enough votes for the override in the House this morning.
    - 10:00 AM Peter Shumlin, the Senate Pro Tempore, asks to suspend the rules, and bring up the veto override. After some comments on the importance of the occasion, and on moving forward on this issue, the vote is taken. The vote is 23 (YES) - 5 (NO). One Republican Senator changed his vote from YES (last week) to NO now. Since more than 2/3 rds voted YES, the override passes the Senate and the bill is sent to the House.
    - 10:10 AM I make a mad dash to the House chamber. where I have a seat being held for me on the House floor.
    - 10:30 AM The Speaker (Shap Smith) gavels the House to order. After the usual preliminaries (a high school group sings, Pledge of Allegiance, etc.) the session begins.
    - 10:45 AM The speeches start. Almost all by Republicans who are opposed to the bill. Not much anger, but mostly a disappointment and concern of what the legislation means. One member says he was asked if perhaps his car could have problems today, so he would not be able to attend the session, which brought a few chuckles.
    - 11:00 AM The roll call begins. I am looking at the person next to me marking down the votes on piece of paper. You know, I, II, III, IIII then a cross through it to make five.It seems I am hearing a lot of NO votes, and everyone is very tense. I see a Republican legislator doing the same count at his desk. Now the clerk calling the roll is in the W's, only a few more to go, and I see my neighbor has only 97 YES votes. Finally when the last member's name is called, my neighbor cross the last group of 5 and makes the mark for 100. People are looking around, seeing if their neighbor had the same count, or did someone not hear correctly or make a mistake.
    The Speaker begins "Here are the results of your vote". He has a little trouble getting the words out. His voice breaks with emotion. He is a new and young Speaker. This is the first huge test of his ability to lead, and he is very emotionally committed to this issue. The results: 100 YES - 49 NO. The governor's veto is overridden.
    We have achieved MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN VERMONT ! The first state to enact marriage equality without a court order.
    The gallery starts cheering, the Speaker immediately gavels the House to order. Outside the chamber, in the hall, you could hear a loud roar. The large crowd that could not get inside, was going wild. The woman next to me hugged her partner, tears in their eyes. Almost everyone I saw was wearing the button for marriage equality. Tears all around, men, women, straight, gay.
    - I've lost track of time now. Eventually I make my way into the Hall of Flags. I find Senators who supported the bill. I make it a point to go over and shake their hands and thank them. I missed most of the Senators, but I did manage to get to most of the leaders with a quick hand shake and a deep heartfelt thank-you. Mostly, they thanked me (us, really) for our hard work. Truth is, it was these men and women who took the public stand for equality.
    - Now I head downstairs to Room 11, where Beth Robinson (the hard working leader of Vermont Freedom To Marry) had the room reserved, not knowing if it would be a celebration or a call to do more work after a close defeat. She said she had not prepared a victory speech, but was ready in case of a defeat. Laughter.......
    It was both a celebration and a call for more work. I somehow ended up standing behind her, totally unplanned, and since all the TV cameras were on her, I will probably see myself on the 6:00 PM news tonight.
    The cheering was constant as person after person was brought forward to speak. Senators, Representatives, organizers, all were cheered in turn.
    We got our next assignments. Every Senator and Representative who voted yes was to get 1000 thank you letters - we are to do what ever we can to insure that those who voted YES win reelection next year. We can allow no one to be defeated for their vote today.
    - 12:30 PM Walked back to the car in a steady rain & it is starting to turn to snow.
    Vermont never looked more beautiful.
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    Apr 07, 2009 6:41 PM GMT
    Congratulations. Thanks for your great work, and for your great first-person reports throughout this process.

    - 11:00 AM The roll call begins. I am looking at the person next to me marking down the votes on piece of paper. You know, I, II, III, IIII then a cross through it to make five. It seems I am hearing a lot of NO votes, and everyone is very tense. I see a Republican legislator doing the same count at his desk.

    Now the clerk calling the roll is in the W's, only a few more to go, and I see my neighbor has only 97 YES votes. Finally when the last member's name is called, my neighbor cross the last group of 5 and makes the mark for 100.

    People are looking around, seeing if their neighbor had the same count, or did someone not hear correctly or make a mistake. The Speaker begins:

    "Here are the results of your vote". He has a little trouble getting the words out. His voice breaks a little with emotion. He is a new and young Speaker. This is the first huge test of his ability to lead, and he is very emotionally committed to this issue.

    The results: 100 YES - 49 NO. The governor's veto is overridden. We have achieved MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN VERMONT ! The first state to enact marriage equality without a court order.

    The gallery start cheering, the Speaker immediately gavels the House to order. Outside the chamber, in the hall, you could hear a loud roar. The large crowd that could not get inside, was going wild. The woman next to me hugged her partner, tears in their eyes. Almost everyone I saw was wearing the button for marriage equality. Tears all around, men, women, straight, gay.


    Very emotional, very inspiring, thanks again.
  • metta

    Posts: 39133

    Apr 07, 2009 7:36 PM GMT
    Thank you for the details. It is a more beautiful day all everywhere!
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    Apr 07, 2009 9:18 PM GMT
    Ten things you can do to say "thanks" to Vermont

    10) Drink a pint from a Vermont micro-brew (Vermont has more micro-breweries per capita than any other state.)
    9) Buy a Grace Potter & The Nocturnals CD
    8.)Go mountain biking on the Kingdom Trails (East Burke)
    7) Buy some Cabot cheese (made in Cabot, Vermont)
    6) Go to a Phish concert
    5) Go skiing or snowboarding in Vermont
    4) Eat some Ben & Jerry's ice cream
    3) Take a fall foilage vacation in Vermont
    2) Buy a pint of Vermont maple syrup (yes, it really is what we are all about)
    1) Come to Vermont - and get married.icon_biggrin.gif
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    Apr 07, 2009 9:18 PM GMT
    stay tuned - photos to come
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    Apr 07, 2009 9:23 PM GMT
    OutdoorMutt saidTen things you can do to say "thanks" to Vermont

    10) Drink a pint from a Vermont micro-brew (Vermont has more micro-breweries per capita than any other state.)
    9) Buy a Grace Potter & The Nocturnals CD
    icon_cool.gif Go mountain biking on the Kingdom Trails (East Burke)
    7) Buy some Cabot cheese (made in Cabot, Vermont)
    6) Go to a Phish concert
    5) Go skiing or snowboarding in Vermont
    4) Eat some Ben & Jerry's ice cream
    3) Take a fall foliage vacation in Vermont
    2) Buy a pint of Vermont maple syrup (yes, it really is what we are all about)
    1) Come to Vermont - and get married.icon_biggrin.gif

    I already do numbers 7 (Cabot cheese) and 2 (Vermont maple syrup). Our family summer home was in Bristol, with many family friends in Burlington. Lemme see what I can arrange, but having a vacation place in Vermont would be awesome.
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    Apr 07, 2009 11:49 PM GMT
    I think I might have to get a BJ tonight in celebration!



    ... I'm talking about a pint of ice cream, you perverts. icon_biggrin.gif
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    Apr 07, 2009 11:53 PM GMT
    GwgTrunks saidI think I might have to get a BJ tonight in celebration!



    ... I'm talking about a pint of ice cream, you perverts. icon_biggrin.gif


    Its a celebration! Why not both? icon_lol.gif
  • OutdoorAdvent...

    Posts: 361

    Apr 08, 2009 12:19 AM GMT
    Well, hey, GwgTrunks and Maverick75, you're both out there in Nebraska. Maybe you can get together to celebrate. You know, share a pint of B and J's and then, oh, never mind.
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    Apr 08, 2009 12:27 AM GMT
    "BJ's" all around!
    Can I have some extra whipped cream please, and maybe some nuts and a bananna?
    ...perverts present and accounted for! LOL!

    Seriously,

    WHAT A WONDERFUL REPORT!

    Thank you for the personal account.
    I look forward to the day, if I am lucky enough live that long, to see same-sex marriage legalized in OHIO and at the federal level.
    Just one victory at a time to change the world!

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    Apr 08, 2009 12:18 PM GMT
    I know that I am much closer to what happened yesterday in Vermont than most of the rest of you. I was very involved, and fortunate to be on the floor of the House during the vote, so what is means to me is probably not what it means to you - at least on a personal level.
    For any one who wants to see a bit of history being made, here is a link you can go to, to see the 25 minutes that changed a bit of history.
    Note that most of the speakers were Republicans who were against it. The pro-marriage legislators had spoken during early votes, and chose not to go over the arguments again.
    The roll call seems to go on for a while - but listening to one legislator after another cast their vote, not knowing the outcome, was a very tense moment for all who were the. Note the young House Speaker, Shap Smith, announcing the results of the vote, his voice breaking.
    The woman legislator who spoke after the vote, was one of 6 Republicans who voted YES. She is also deeply religious and a Catholic (and is my 3rd cousin).


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    Apr 10, 2009 9:09 AM GMT
    Some photos from that historic day.

    Sign next to status of Ethan Allen at front entrance to the State House
    entrance_1.jpg

    Sitting behind two Republican Senators (the one on the right voted YES and has a gay son.)
    senate_1.jpg

    House of Representatives during the roll call.
    house_vote.jpg

    Three Senate leaders after the vote
    senate_leaders.jpg

    Post vote celebration at the State House.
    post_vote.jpg