UCC leaders laud Vermont legalization of same-gender marriage
Written by J. Bennett Guess and Gregg Brekke
April 7, 2009
UCC leaders are commending the Vermont legislature for legalizing same-gender marriage, making it the fourth U.S. state to do so.
On April 7, the Vermont House of Representatives overturned Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of same-sex marriage legislation by the narrowest of margins. The 100-49 House vote came shortly after the Senate's overwhelming 23-5 veto override to make Vermont the fourth state in the nation to legally recognize same-sex marriage.
Only last week, Iowa's Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's decision that found unconstitutional the state's "Defense of Marriage Act" which restricted marriage to one man and one woman. The April 3 judicial ruling followed similar rulings by courts in Massachusetts and Connecticut affording the legal rights, recognitions and responsibilities of civil marriage to lesbian and gay couples.
Vermont is the first state to recognize same-sex marriage by act of its legislature.
The Rev. Lynn Bujnak
"It is not the gender of the partners but the quality of relationship and commitment that matter," said the Rev. Lynn Bujnak, UCC Vermont Conference Minister, testifying before the legislature as it was taking up the measure. Bujnak and the Rev. Peg Slater, also a UCC minister, have been in a committed same-gender relationship for 24 years.
With 144 churches in Vermont, the UCC is the largest Protestant denomination in the state. In 2005, the UCC General Synod overwhelmingly affirmed a resolution in support of same-gender marriage equality, making the denomination the first and largest mainline Christian body to do so.
In 2000, Vermont became the first state to offer civil unions to same-sex couples at the urging of then-Gov. Howard Dean, a UCC member. But, at the time, the state stopped short of offering full marriage rights.
"Is it not the responsibility of those who govern to enact legislation that guarantees people will be treated equally under the law?" Bujnak said. "To me, the moral and civil imperatives are clear."
The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, the UCC's minister for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender concerns, praised the tenacity of the Vermont legislators in overriding the governor's veto.
"The legislature has acted rightly to end the second class status of Civil Unions so that all couples may be treated equally in both the name and legal status of marriage," said Schuenemeyer. "I applaud the many people from our UCC churches in Vermont, and other people of faith, who shared their stories and worked hard to make this possible."
The 1.2-million-member United Church of Christ has more than 5,500 congregations in the United States. It was formed by the 1957 union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
Learn more about the UCC's commitment to LGBT equality.