THE JUDEVINE MOUNTAIN EMAILITE #20

CIVIL UNIONS LAW ISSUE
* * * * *
 

In This Issue:

 

  • The New Civil Unions Law in Vermont: A Need for Letters of Support 
  • Partnership Laws in Europe
  •  

    Postscript

     

  • A Few Statistics about The Governor of Texas
  •  

    *****
     

    DAVID’S NOTES:

     

    The New Civil Unions Law in Vermont:
    A Need for Letters of Support
     

    As practically everybody knows by now, Vermont passed a Civil Unions Law this spring which extends to gay and lesbian couples almost all of the rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. As you may also know, during the winter while the legislature debated the issue, Dr. Laura Schlessinger campaigned actively on her nationwide radio show against the bill.

     

    Now that the bill has passed and, as of July 1st, is in effect, Dr. Laura is up to her old tricks and the Vermont State Governor’s office, at Dr. Laura’s urging, has been bombarded with calls against the recent decision to extend civil unions benefits to same sex couples.

     

    Those legislators who voted in favor of the Civil Unions bill are also now being threatened by right wing organizations–from both inside and outside Vermont–with campaigns to oust them from office during this fall’s elections. Signs have appeared all over the state saying TAKE BACK VERMONT and REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER. Where exactly the opponents of the Civil Unions law want to take Vermont back to is the question.

     

    Jessamyn West, an enterprising young woman who favors the Civil Unions law, pulled off the cyber-scoop of the year by establishing a website: http://www.takebackvermont.com, (this link no longer works) where you can read articles in favor of the Civil Unions law and get information and articles about what the opponents of the law are up to.

     

    As Jessamyn says in her Manifesto, “Face it, folks… No matter what happens, there will always be people who have different lifestyles than you do, and there will always be people who do things you’d rather not have them do. The only question is, do you tolerate them as they tolerate you, or do you persecute them?”

     

     

    Meanwhile, there have been relatively few positive comments coming into the Statehouse or to the legislators who voted for the bill since the bill was passed into law.

     

    For those Emailites who live outside Vermont–and there are many of you–we hope you will take the time to email: Lieutenant Governor Douglas A. Racine–ltgov@leg.state.vt.us–saying that you support Vermont’s Civil Unions law and the people who voted for it. The people in Vermont state government need to hear from those of you out there who support them even though you are not citizens of Vermont.

     

    We also urge The Emailites who live in Vermont to take a minute and drop an email or a snailmail to your representatives and your senators expressing your support for the Civil Unions law.

     

    To find the addresses for your Senators go to: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/legdir/sens-d.cfm?Session=2000.

     

    For the addresses of your Representatives go to: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/legdir/reps-d.cfm?Session=2000.

     

    If you want more information about the Civil Unions law go to: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/baker/baker.cfm

     

    Here, as a template, is a suggestion for your letter. Please rewrite it and personalize it in any way you can.

     

    Dear —-, 

    I support you and the Vermont legislators who have passed the Civil Unions Law in order to give equal rights to same-sex partners. 

    You and your colleagues have taken a historic step towards mending the many fractures that divide our society. 

    Thank you for your forward-thinking politics and your support for the rights of a minority. 

    Sincerely, 

     

     

    THE JUDEVINE MOUNTAIN EMAILITE, will report from time to time as the fall progresses on the battle that is sure to come. As the weather up here in the north-country gets colder and colder the political climate is going to get hotter and hotter.

     

    * * * * *

     

     

     

    Partnership Laws Abroad
    by
    Lois Eby
     

    (The following essay originally aired as a commentary on Vermont Public Radio on 15 June 2000.)

     

    Vermont is the first state in the United States to pass a Civil Unions Law, but many Vermonters may be surprised to learn that we are not the first government among Western countries to do so. We are instead simply one more government to join a widespread change in social attitudes and laws.

     

    Norway for example has had a Partnership Law since 1993. I learned about Norway’s Law because I was visiting a friend in Norway when the Vermont House cast the final vote in favor of the Civil Unions Bill. During that visit I also learned that Denmark was the first Scandinavian country to pass a Partnership Law, in 1989, followed by Norway, and then Sweden and Iceland. Last year France joined several other European countries when it adopted its own partnership law, and the European Parliament has recommended that the 15 member countries of the European Unions extend the rights of heterosexual couples to homosexual couples.

     

    The law differs in some respects from country to country. For example, Iceland includes adoption rights in their law and Norway does not. France gives heterosexual couples the right to be joined in a civil unions while other countries do not. But all countries create a civil partnership which provides homosexual couples with economic and legal rights and responsibilities similar to marriage.

     

    Sitting around a table with a group of Norwegians, at a window which overlooked the harbor in Bergen, I had the opportunity to learn what a few Norwegians think of their law after living with it for seven years. My friend’s husband, a man in his seventies who grew up in Bergen, said he thought it was working very well, and that he also thought most Norwegians would agree. A group of women in their thirties, forties, and fifties, all in heterosexual marriages, said the same thing. One woman said that she thinks it doesn’t affect heterosexual families at all, but the law is important for homosexuals. It gives them many needed rights and enables them to feel like worthy members of society.

     

    All agreed that while the majority of Norwegians support the law, it continues to be an issue for the Church, meaning primarily the State Lutheran Church. Church leadership is divided on this issue; some church leaders oppose the law while others support it. A woman minister in the State Lutheran Church, for example, recently acknowledged publicly that she was a member of a lesbian partnership. Despite great demand among conservative church leaders for her resignation, the Bishop in her area, also a woman, decided to let her continue in her official church position.

     

    This conflict within the churches occurs in other countries as it has in Norway and Vermont. But for civil society, the law appears to work. In France, many heterosexual couples have taken the opportunity to form partnerships rather than marry and they seem enthusiastic about the new law. While there are still unresolved issues in all these countries, the people I met in Norway seemed to accept their current Partnership Law and were eager to discuss other issues. They were much more anxious to discuss gun violence in the United States, to ask about our gun laws, and to express concern that gun violence is growing in Norway.

     

    I came away from Norway proud that Vermont has passed its own civil unions law and aware that changes in the direction of equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens are much more widespread than I had realized. While such change is accompanied everywhere by argument and differing levels of rights, many countries have taken definite steps to end discrimination against gays and lesbians. Vermont citizens now have the opportunity to support our law and become part of an international and growing effort to grant partnership rights to a productive group of citizens who have endured prejudice and persecution for too many centuries.

     

    * * * * *
     

     

     

    Postscript:
    A Few Statistics about The Governor of Texas
     

     

    The State of Texas, under the leadership of Governor George W. Bush, is ranked:

     

     

     

    50th in spending for teachers’ salaries

     

    49th in spending on the environment

     

    48th in per-capita funding for public health

     

    47th in delivery of social services

     

    42nd in child-support collections

     

    41st in per-capita spending on public education

     

    and …

     

     

    5th in percentage of population living in poverty

     

    1st in air and water pollution

     

    1st in percentage of poor working parents without insurance

     

    1stin percentage of children without health insurance

     

    1st in executions (average 1 every 2 weeks for Bush’s 5 years)

     

    Just think of what he could do for the country if he were president.