The Freedom to Marry in Vermont

Winning Marriage: September 1, 2009

Same-sex couples began marrying in Vermont on September 1, 2009 after the Vermont Legislature passed a bill ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. For the bill to take effect, the legislature had to override the veto of Governor Jim Douglas, which they successfully did. In 2000 Vermont was the first state to create civil union for same-sex couples following a historic court ruling. The civil union law marked a historic breakthrough but failed to provide many of the protections that marriage provides.  

History and the Path to Victory:

  • July 22, 1997: Same-sex couples and counsel, including Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, file a lawsuit in state court seeking the freedom to marry in Vermont, Baker v. Vermont.
  • December 20, 1999: the Vermont Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, declaring that the state must provide to same-sex couples the same “benefits and protections” that different-sex couples can receive. The Court defers to the Vermont legislature to create a solution.
  • March 15, 2000: The Vermont legislature passes legislation creating the United State’s first civil union law, falling short of the freedom to marry. This legislation fails to give same-sex couples the full rights and protections that a marriage provides.  
  • 2001-2009: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Vermont take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • April 7, 2009: Vermont becomes the fourth state to affirm the freedom to marry when the Vermont Legislature overrides a veto from Governor Jim Douglas.
  • September 1, 2009: The freedom to marry takes effect in Vermont once and for all.
  • June 20, 2013: Polling in Vermont tracks majority support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Vermont Freedom to Marry was Vermont's central statewide organization working to protect the freedom to marry.
  • Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England's leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.