“Real” Vermonters’ voices heard in gay marriage debate

The world is still spinning.The Earth didn’t split down the center and swallow up mankind into a fiery abyss of ash and brimstone. An asteroid didn’t plummet into the White House, and the world’s nukes didn’t simultaneously explode, unleashing a planet-killing nuclear winter.

Last week, Vermont legalized gay marriage – and the world’s still spinning.

Vermont became the fourth state in the country to pass such a bill, following in the footsteps of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa. And even though the gay marriage debate in the halls and chambers of Vermont’s capitol has quieted since the law passed, those on the losing side of the debate continue to stir up heated words of protest across the state.
Many Vermonters opposing the legalizing of gay marriage have been crying foul since last week, proclaiming that “real” Vermonters would never let such a thing happen, suggesting that a state-wide vote based solely on public opinion would show the bill’s lack of popular support in the state.

Now, the argument is capable of carrying some water. Vermont was once one of the most solidly conservative states in the country. And while Vermont is widely considered a predominantly liberal-leaning state these days, many parts of it are still deeply rooted in old time Vermont conservatism.

It’s for that reason that the argument doesn’t seem so completely inane. A state-wide vote on the matter of gay marriage would likely result in a much closer vote than the media leads people to suggest.

But if laws in this country were passed based only on popular opinion, some states would still practice racial segregation, while others would still restrict women from working certain jobs based solely on their sex.

The right path to progress isn’t always the popular path. History has shown this time and time again. This is why we elect qualified officials to weigh the pros and cons of a situation, and then create laws based on what their reason suggests will be the most successful for the country as a whole.

It’s about power: there never is (supposed to be) any one person with too much of it. Even the president can be overridden by the members of Congress. It’s an almost perfect failsafe device. This is what separates a democracy from a dictatorship, keeping the power in the hands of the people rather than just one person.

Vermont Gov. James Douglas vetoed a gay marriage bill that had been approved by more than 150 members of the Vermont Congress, those representing various towns and communities across the entire state.
But democracy took action. The will of one man – the governor – was overturned by the larger combined efforts of Vermont’s elected officials, chosen by its people.

So in reality, passing gay marriage through the legislature – through the elected voices of the people – rather than in a state’s Supreme Court behind closed doors (like in previous states to allow gay marriage), sort of stands as a testament to the upside of democracy.

So the idea that the people of Vermont had no say in the matter holds little weight, when it’s dissected properly, that is. If anything, they had more say than most, as the state passed the bill because it was the right thing to do, and not just a Constitutional technicality as in previous states.

The people have spoken: marriage is gay.

And the world is still spinning.

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