By Just One Vote Or By a Landslide, the Result is the Same

In my last post, I wondered why it was taking the Right so long to weigh in on the Vermont marriage vote, speculating that they were having a hard time trying to work out talking points now that they couldn’t blame it on “activist judges.”

Well, some responses are starting to roll and guess what?  They are still blaming it on activist judges, as Matthew Franck does at Bench Memos:

[L]et’s not forget that the history of Vermont’s struggle over this issue goes back ten years, to the state supreme court’s decision in Baker v. Vermont, when the judges illegitimately instructed the legislature to choose between full-fledged marriage or civil unions with all the essential privileges of marriage. The legislature back then chose the latter, people in Vermont got used to the phenomenon of gay couples “all but married,” and with that as the new starting point, the argument became compelling to enough Vermonters (or at least to enough of their legislators) that the final step to marriage seemed only just.

Would same-sex marriage have arrived in Vermont in 2009 without the state supreme court forcing the issue in 1999? It’s impossible to be certain, but I think probably not. So this is still, in part, a story of the leverage that judicial usurpation can produce in generating social change that legitimate representation of the people would continue to resist.

Old habits die hard, I guess.  But I can see why Franck would rely on this tired trope, especially when the only alternative is to try and come up with new talking points about why this vote was undemocratic and an affront to the will of the people leads to inane statements such as this from the National Organization for Marriage (via Tips-Q):

By only one vote, the Vermont House just voted to override Governor Douglas’s veto, overturning the common sense definition of marriage shared by people of diverse faiths, backgrounds, nations, and political parties. Today is truly a sad day for Vermont and this nation.

But we take heart in knowing that this vote was not representative of what Vermonters understand marriage to be. We know that the Vermont Legislature did everything in its power to avoid allowing Vermonters to vote directly on the future of marriage.

In the wake of the Iowa Supreme Court decision and Vermont Legislature’s action, the National Organization for Marriage will tomorrow launch a new national ad campaign that highlights how same-sex marriage undermines the core civil rights of those who believe in the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Today is indeed a sad day, but let all of us who understand that marriage is the union of a husband and wife redouble our commitment to ensuring that same-sex marriage does not spread throughout our nation, that religious liberty is protected, and ultimately that marriage is restored in these states as well for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

By just one vote?  When the Vermont Senate and House passed the bill, the votes were 26-4 and 95-52, respectively. Unfortunately, Republican Governor Jim Douglas vetoed it, meaning that the legislature needed the votes of two-thirds of the members present to override it, which they did today by votes of 23-5 and 100-49.

Granted, the 100 votes in the House was just enough to override the veto – but, by my count, the votes cast in favor of marriage equality while passing the legislation and overriding the veto both outweighed the votes cast against it by a margin of more than two to one.

And isn’t it amazing that even when the elected representatives of Vermont vote to grant marriage equality to all its citizens, it still, according to NOM, is “not representative of what Vermonters understand marriage to be.”