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The Vermont legislature has overruled a gubernatorial veto and approved same- sex marriage. The vote makes Vermont the fourth state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, and it's the first state to do so without being prompted by a court order. From Vermont Public Radio, John Dillon reports.
JOHN DILLON: The vote came after a weekend of intense lobbying. No one knew if supporters could muster the two-thirds majority needed to override Republican Governor Jim Douglas' veto. The House chamber was jammed as the vote was announced.
Unidentified Man #1: Those voting yes, 100, those voting no, 49.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
Man #1: Hundred needed to pass. You have voted to override the veto.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
Unidentified Man #2: The House will come to order.
(SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL)
DILLON: The celebration continued outside the House chamber. Robert Dostis and his partner Chuck Kletecka were making wedding plans for the fall.
ROBERT DOSTIS: Well, we've been together (unintelligible).
CHUCK KLETECKA: We haven't decided who's gonna propose to who yet, but we've been together 25 years in September, so I think Sept. 14th could be a nice wedding day.
DILLON: Kletecka said the legislation will add social and legal acceptance to their long-term relationship.
KLETECKA: We're as good and as bad as any other group of people. And now I think we have a chance to prove ourselves here on forward that we're good members of our community, we're a good couple, good family members and we're happy to be the part of the entire community now.
DILLON: The legislature approved the marriage bill nine years after Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions for same-sex couples. Under the legislation, civil unions performed in the past would still be recognized. But after September 1st, just marriage licenses will be granted to both same-sex and heterosexual couples.
Despite Vermont's liberal reputation, the legislation drew weekly protests along with the gubernatorial veto. Craig Benson, a minister with the independent Cambridge, Vermont United Church, said lawmakers who voted for the bill may pay a price at the polls.
CRAIG BENSON: I personally don't see myself running for anything, but I certainly see myself and my friends very active in encouraging good candidates who are more concerned about the business of Vermont than they are about pushing social agenda hobby horses.
DILLON: About four states have now legalized same-sex marriage. House Speaker Shap Smith says the Vermont vote is still historic.
SHAP SMITH: Well, I'm happy that we were able to pass - be the first legislature to actually pass marriage equality without a court order. I think that that really is a statement, and I'm glad that we were able to do it through the democratic process.
DILLON: Opponents, including Governor Douglas, said the legislature was distracted by the marriage debate and needed to focus more on the economy. Legal experts say that for a Vermont marriage to be recognized in another state, that state would have to accept same-sex marriage.
For NPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier, Vermont.
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