In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in the case of Baker v. State, 744 A.2d 864 (Vt. 1999), ruling that prohibiting same-sex marriage violated the Vermont constitution because it denied same-sex couples
the rights granted to heterosexual couples.
However, rather than order the government to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the court left it up to the state legislature to remedy the situation. In response to the court's order in Baker v. State, the Vermont legislature passed a law creating a "civil union registration system," under which same-sex couples can register their partnership and receive all the benefits of state laws that apply to married couples.
Although the U.S. Constitution requires each state to give "full faith and credit" to the laws of other states - for example, by recognizing marriages and divorces made across state lines - the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed in 1996, expressly undercuts the full faith and credit requirement in the case of same-sex marriages.
That said, because the DOMA abridges the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, it may be challenged legally in the near future. Furthermore, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court clarified its ruling late last year that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the Massachusetts Constitution's guarantee that all citizens be treated equally under the law. Lambda Legal predicts that within a few months, same-sex couples in Massachusetts will begin getting married. They will be able to visit their spouses in the hospital, make decisions about each other?s health care and be fully recognized as parents of their children.
Anti-gay groups may proceed ahead in efforts to amend the state?s Constitution to carve out an exception to the time-honored guarantee of equality. As that debate moves forward, people will see same-sex couples who are legally married - and they will see that in seeking to protect their families, these married couples pose no threat to society. Benefits for Same-Sex Couples in California, Hawaii and Vermont. If you're a member of a same-sex couple living in one of these three states, you can take advantage of laws that allow you to register your partnership and receive many of the benefits granted to married couples. California.
To register a domestic partnership in California, visit the California Secretary of State website at www.ss.ca.gov. (Look under "Special Programs Information.") Hawaii. To learn about registering your partnership in Hawaii (where it's called a "reciprocal beneficiary relationship"), visit the website of Hawaii?s Vital Records office at www.state.hi.us/doh/records/rbrfaq.htm. Vermont. To read the official guide to Vermont's civil union law, go to www.sec.state.vt.us and click on "Publications."
About the author:
Jeffrey Broobin is a free-lance writer on family and finance issues; his main goal is to help people during their complicated period of life.
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