Last night, the Vermont House of Representatives passed its version of a bill permitting same-sex marriage by a vote of 95-52–a hefty margin but not hefty enough to withstand Gov. Jim Douglas’ promised veto. According to the Burlington Free Press, however, “some” of the 11 Democrats who voted against the bill have said they would switch sides for the override. One hundred votes are needed in what promises to be a nail-biter.
I tuned in to the live stream of the debate on the Free Press website, and while the impassioned and sometimes tearful statements of gay and lesbian members were very moving, what touched me most was the evident distress of Albert “Sonny” Audette, a 77-year-old representative from South Burlington. Audette, who spent 30 years as South Burlington’s director of public works before getting elected to the House, seems to be Vermont’s version of a conservative Democrat–NRA member, supporter of organized labor, pretty strongly pro-environment, opponent of symbolic impeachment resolutions directed at Bush and Cheney.
He was clearly moved by the pleas for equal marriage rights, but in his speech before the vote, said that he just couldn’t vote for the bill because of his devout Catholicism. After the vote, he rose again–the Vermont House permits members to explain their votes after the fact–to extend what seemed like an apology to his gay colleagues: “I respect all of these people not for the sexual orientation but because of who they are.” I don’t expect to find him among the switchers. Call it faith over public works.
Update: Final passage in House, 94-52; now on to Senate.