[Congressional Record Volume 155, Number 139 (Wednesday, September 30, 2009)]
[Pages S9977-S9978]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, the U.S. Constitution, the document by 
which we define ourselves as a nation, emphasizes freedom and equality. 
Its words have inspired generations of Americans to create a society 
that sustains those values: one that preserves our freedom and reminds 
its citizens that we are all created equally. Among those who are 
leading the fight to protect this constitutional guarantee of equality 
are the people of Vermont, who I have been proud to represent for the 
past 34 years.
  Vermonters have consistently led the charge to perfect our Union and 
to support the fight for equality and social justice. Vermont was the 
first State in our Union to outlaw slavery, and was also the first to 
adopt voting rights, regardless of property ownership. Vermont 
demonstrated its commitment to social justice years ago with the 
passage of inclusive hate crimes and employment nondiscrimination 
legislation. I hope our Federal Government will follow Vermont's lead 
with regard to these essential protections.
  Vermonters have led the Nation by protecting families and by ensuring 
that children are in stable, loving environments. This is because 
Vermonters believe that parents should be allowed to strengthen their 
commitments to one another. In 2000, Vermont took a crucial step when 
it became the first State in the Nation to allow civil unions for same-
sex couples. Recently, Vermont took another step to help sustain the 
relationships that fulfill our lives by becoming the first state to 
adopt same-sex marriage through the legislative process without a court 
mandate to do so.
  I commend the Vermont State Legislature for its actions, and for 
setting aside partisan differences to serve the people of Vermont and 
to serve as an example for the Nation. Throughout the tumultuous debate 
on this issue, both chambers considered each side's viewpoint, and all 
points of view were heard. This was a real testament to our democratic 
process. Yet despite that debate, the Governor vetoed the legislation 
that was approved by the legislature.
  The Vermont State Legislature has the distinction of being a part-
time body. They work within the very communities they represent on a 
daily basis. During the debate, these legislators listened to their 
neighbors, their friends, and their constituents. During this process, 
they realized that marriage equality was something the people of 
Vermont wanted. Some members of the State legislature ultimately 
decided to put aside their personal views. They did not want to have 
such an important issue decided by a single vote. They did not believe 
that one person should be able to prevent what Vermonters were 
seeking--equality for all its citizens. In the end, several of the 
legislators who originally voted against the bill cast their vote to 
override the Governor's veto. I believe that the actions of those 
legislators and the entire Vermont Legislature deserve our admiration.

[[Page S9978]]

  As a Vermonter who has been married for 47 years, I am a great fan of 
the institution of marriage. I believe it is important to encourage and 
to sanction committed relationships, and to provide for stable, 
supportive families. When Vermont passed legislation on same-sex 
marriage, it reaffirmed my fundamental belief we should not create 
second-class families who do not enjoy the protections other families 
have. Unfortunately this is still not the case in our Federal 
Government. With laws like the Defense of Marriage Act in effect, 
Vermont same-sex marriages are still treated differently. I believe it 
is time to repeal it, so that all Vermonters can be treated equally 
under the law.
  Vermont's State motto is depicted clearly on our State flag: 
``Freedom and Unity.'' Today, same-sex couples in Vermont are now able 
to enjoy the same freedoms that opposite sex couples in Vermont enjoy. 
Same-sex couples now have the freedom to create and to preserve family 
unity, and to bring happiness and stability to their children and loved 
ones. I am proud to represent the people of Vermont and I commend them 
for having reached yet another milestone in the march toward equality.