Let Vermont Move Forward on Marriage Equality: an open letter to Governor Jim Douglas

04/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Honorable Jim Douglas
Governor of Vermont
109 State Street, Pavilion
Montpelier, VT 05609-010

Dear Governor Douglas,

Fifteen years ago, my husband Tom and I bought our house in Thetford, Vermont, partly for the spectacular view of the mountains across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire, but mainly because we already had a wonderful community of close friends there. A number of them happen to be lesbians, living in committed relationships like our own.

My parents, who live in Colorado, came to know them and would see them on their visits here and ask after them in our phone conversations. Although my folks knew that our friends Annelise and Alexis lived together as a couple, when I called them excitedly one day, in 1996, to announce that Alexis was going to have a baby, my mother's bewildered response was, "Oh? I didn't even know she was married!"

I shouldn't have been surprised. My mother had been raised to believe that homosexuality was a sin, but she, like my father, had come to not only accept, but love, our lesbian friends. Which is not to say that she wasn't occasionally a little confused, but, after a brief conversation about sperm donors and artificial insemination, the next thing I knew, she was making a baby quilt for Alexis and Annelise's daughter, Evann. A few years later, when Annelise became pregnant with their second child, she made another baby quilt. And she made two more around that time, for babies of other lesbian friends.

Our son, Gabriel, who is now fourteen, spent so much time with these kids that one day when he was four or five he asked me, with genuine puzzlement, "How come I don't have two moms?" He was too young to be involved in the Vermont marriage debates a decade ago, but he's keenly interested in civil rights these days, so he joined me and some one thousand Vermonters at the statehouse in Montpelier on March 18 to attend the public hearings on the marriage equality bill before the Vermont legislature.

We heard Evann, now twelve, testify in favor of the bill that would give her parents the right to get married: "It hurts me sometimes when I feel invisible, because few people understand my feelings about my family, and few people want to ask about families with two moms. It's time to ask. It's time to understand. And it's time to accept and honor families like mine." We heard Evann's mom, Alexis, testify that it comes down to "what's best for the kids. And when you really think about it, why is it better for the children of gay and lesbian parents to be less secure, financially and legally, than other kids?" And we heard many Vermonters, gay and straight, with kids and without kids, argue that everyone should have full civil rights, that no one should any longer be treated like a second-class citizen.

As you know, a few days later, the Vermont senate voted 26-4 for the marriage equality bill and it was sent to the house where it stood an excellent chance of passing. But the next day, you announced you would veto the bill--the first time in your tenure that you've threatened to veto a bill before the entire legislature voted on it. In the press release announcing your intention to veto the bill, you said: "I respect the passionate opinions of individuals on both sides of this debate and hope that when the Legislature makes their decision, whatever the outcome may be, we can move our state forward, toward a bright future for our children and grandchildren."

Governor Douglas, if you truly respect all Vermonters, I urge you to honor the votes of our elected representatives when they make "their decision." Don't veto the bill. Allow it to become law, free the legislature to move on to other urgent tasks, and let the families of our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors enjoy all the civil rights you and I already enjoy. Our state is well on its way toward to that bright future all our children and grandchildren deserve. All you need to do is not hold us back.

Susan Brison