Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hearings by the Vermont House Judiciary Committee on marriage-equality legislation

03/26/09 Vermont Freedom to Marry:

Following the state Senate's passage of S.115 on March 24th, the House Judiciary Committee began hearings on the legislation. Vermont Freedom to Marry has posted video of all three days of hearings, though it does not have coverage of all witnesses. Having testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 16th, Vermont University Law Professors Peter Teachout and Gregory Johnson testified again at the March 25th hearing, and so did attorney Beth Robinson on behalf of Vermont Freedom to Marry.

Johnson reviewed Baker v. State of Vermont, 744 A.2d 864 (Vt. 1999), in the context of the history of litigation over same-sex marriage. He also repeated his presentation of reasons why civil unions fall short of Baker's constitutional imperative to provide equal access to the rights and benefits of marriage.

When reviewing the historical, legal context of Baker, Johnson considered the analogy between historical bans on interracial marriage and current bans on same-sex marriage. Just as nearly 30 state constitutions now ban same-sex marriages, so over 30 state constitutions banned interracial marriages when, in Perez v. Sharp, 32 Cal.2d 71 (1948), the California Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of outlawing restrictions on interracial marriage. Objections to both types of marriage include proscription based on Christian creation, but opposite arguments based on procreation. At the time of the Perez ruling, state courts considered the prospect of procreation as one reason to prohibit interracial marriage. But many state courts have justified opposition to same-sex marriage because their judges believe that marriage has been founded upon procreation.

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