Vermont's Republican Governor, Jim Douglas, announced in a press conference earlier today that he'll veto a marriage equality bill if it passes the legislature (as it looks likely to do). When Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed marriage equality in California, his justification was that the California courts should decide the issue rather than the legislature (which, I've got to add, just seemed really bizarre to me). Douglas' justification for vetoing the bill is the standard "marriage should be between a man and a woman" shtick. His justification for announcing his veto in advance (thereby violating his own policy of not making veto threats) is that speculation about his position is diverting attention from the "issues that matter most to Vermonters: growing our economy and creating more jobs."
Of course, he's creating a distraction by announcing the veto threat, but that logic apparently escaped him. My reaction as a (newly-minted) Vermonter is unprintable. While I'm pretty sure the bill will pass the House, I have no idea whether it will do so with a veto-proof majority (it's got a veto-proof majority in the Senate already).
I've included Douglas' full statement after the jump.
Statement of Governor James H. Douglas Regarding Same-sex Marriage:
"The urgency of our state's economic and budgetary challenges demands the full focus of every member and every committee of this Legislature. Ensuring that the federal recovery money is spent wisely, that the state budget is balanced and responsible, and that we do all we can to help our employers compete and create jobs is my top priority.
However, I recognize that legislative leaders have different priorities. So long as same-sex marriage consumes the time and energy of legislators, I will urge lawmakers to act quickly so they can turn their full focus to the economic needs of Vermonters as soon as possible.
The question of same sex marriage is an issue that does not break cleanly as Republican or Democrat, rural or urban, religious or atheist. It is an intensely personal decision - a decision informed by all of those things and many more - an amalgam of experience, conviction and faith. These beliefs are deeply held, passionately expressed and, for many legislators, infinitely more complex than the ultimate 'yea' or 'nay' required to fulfill the duty of their office.
For those on either side of the vote to sternly judge the other's morality and conscience is the only true intolerance in this debate and is a disservice to all Vermonters. I have Republican friends who will vote for this bill and Democratic friends who will vote against - and regardless of their vote, they will still be my friends and have my respect when this issue is resolved.
Vermont's civil union law has extended the same state rights, responsibilities and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. I believe our civil union law serves Vermont well and I would support congressional action to extend those benefits at the federal level to states that recognize same-sex unions. But like President Obama and other leaders on both sides of the aisle, I believe that marriage should remain between a man and woman.
As you know, it's been a policy of mine not to announce whether or not I will veto a bill before it reaches my desk. But during these extraordinary times, the speculation about my decision has added to the anxiety of the moment and further diverts attention from our most pressing issues - and I cannot allow that to happen.
For those reasons and because I believe that by removing any uncertainty about my position we can move more quickly beyond this debate, I am announcing that I intend to veto this legislation when it reaches my desk.
On such an intensely divisive issue as this, I expect all members will vote as their individual conscience indicates and in the best interest of their districts, and not as the political leadership dictates. That said, I'm sure that legislative leaders would not have advanced this bill if they did not have the votes to override a veto. I will accept the outcome of their vote either way.
In the meantime, I will turn my attention and energy away from this issue and back to the issue that matters most to Vermonters: to growing our economy and creating good jobs.
I respect the passionate opinions of individuals on both sides of this debate and hope that when the Legislature makes their decision, whatever the outcome may be, we can move our state forward, toward a bright future for our children and grandchildren. We still have a great deal of work ahead of us and Vermonters are counting on us to work together to get the job done."