By Tom Strode
WASHINGTON (BP)--The approval of same-sex unions by the Vermont House of Representatives could be the first step in undermining marriage and the family in the United States, said the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's ethics agency.
The Vermont House voted 76-69 in favor of legislation establishing "civil unions" for homosexual couples, thereby providing benefits and rights previously bestowed only on spouses in marriage. While the bill designates marriage as only occurring between a man and woman, it enables homosexuals to receive licenses from town clerks and to be joined together in a union that can be dissolved only in a family court.
The Senate is expected to vote soon on the legislation, and Gov. Howard Dean has indicated he will sign it.
If the bill becomes law, it will place Vermont at a level far surpassing any other state in supporting homosexual unions.
"Vermont's action is one more example of the full-scale onslaught of the radical homosexual agenda to normalize and have affirmed by the state and society their cohabitation relationships," said Richard Land, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "This is a further argument for every other state passing its own Defense of Marriage Act so it will not have to accept these relationships that are legally condoned in Vermont."
The measure has ramifications that could reach far beyond same-sex unions, Land said.
"It is time for society to ask some hard questions," he said. "If we're going to have state-confirmed 'civil unions' for homosexual and lesbian couples because they have 'loving, caring relationships,' where does this end? What about a brother and sister who want to have a 'civil union' confirmed by the state because they have an incestuous relationship? What about two heterosexual men and a heterosexual woman who want to have a 'civil union' blessed by the state because they have a 'loving, committed relationship?'
"We are talking about the first blow of an ax laid to the root of the tree of the basis of any civilization, namely marriage and the family. America needs to beware of ravenous wolves masquerading in the sheep's clothing of supposed tolerance."
Some homosexual rights advocates hailed the vote while advocating the legislature should go even further.
"This is a monumental and historic leap forward" for same-sex couples, said Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, in a written release. "However, this is no substitute for civil marriage, and separate treatment has never translated into equality in America."
HRC is the country's largest homosexual political organization.
The Vermont House approved same-sex unions despite widespread opposition from citizens.
On what is known as Vermont Town Meeting Day only nine days before the House vote, fewer than 10 of the state's 246 communities voted in support of legal benefits for homosexual couples. About 50 communities voted in opposition to same-sex marriages. The votes are not binding on the legislature.
Opponents of the bill swamped the capitol telephone system on the morning of the final House vote, according to a report by the Vermont Press Bureau. The calls, primarily from Vermont residents, were "110 percent against" the legislation, said Sergeant at Arms Kermit Spaulding, according to the report.
The House vote came as a result of a unanimous ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court in December that same-sex partners should have the same benefits and protections now granted to heterosexual married couples. In its decision, the court said the legislature must determine whether the ruling should be implemented by approving same-sex marriage or by establishing a domestic-partnership system. The House defeated an attempt to legalize homosexual marriage before approving "civil unions."
In early March, two states acted to undergird marriage as a union between only a man and a woman. California voters approved with a 61 percent majority Proposition 22, which says California recognizes only marriage between one man and one woman. The West Virginia legislature adopted a measure supporting the historic definition of marriage and prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages. Gov. Cecil Underwood is expected to sign the bill.
If so, West Virginia will become the 32nd state to enact a measure protecting traditional marriage, according to the Family Research Council. In 1996, Congress adopted the Defense of Marriage Act, which strengthened states' authority to refuse the recognition of same-sex marriages.
These legislative actions were the result of fears by opponents of same-sex marriage that homosexual couples would use a single state's legalization of homosexual marriage to force it upon other states. They were concerned a same-sex couple could be married in one state and return to their state and seek approval of their marriage.
Used with permission.