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January 14th, 2008

How To Have A Civil Debate On Same Sex Marriage

Oh look…things have become Much more civil in Vermont then they used to be…

Vt. Gay Marriage Debate Tamer This Time

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — For many who lived through Vermont’s not-so-civil debate over civil unions, the memories remain painfully fresh: hate mail, threatening telephone messages, tense public meetings.

This time around, as the state weighs whether to legalize gay marriage, the debate is noticeably tamer with little of the vitriol and recrimination that surrounded its groundbreaking 2000 decision to legally recognize gay and lesbian couples.

Although that absence of an impending vote may be what’s keeping things civil, people involved in the debate have noticed a change in atmosphere.

"It’s a very different tenor," said Beth Robinson, chairwoman of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, which supports gay marriage. "People have had an opportunity to come to terms. Vermonters have had eight years to see the two guys next door, or the two women down the street who have a legally recognized relationship under the civil unions law."

Ah yes…  Now that they’ve had a chance to see how it works for themselves, and that the sky didn’t fall when same sex couples were allowed to have the same rights as opposite sex couples…tensions have eased, and people are more use to the idea…. 

"It was a time unlike anything since the Vietnam War era, when you had the sense that the whole world around you was divided," said David Moats, author of "Civil Wars: A Battle For Gay Marriage," a book about Vermont’s civil unions controversy.

Last summer, the Legislature appointed an 11-member Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection to explore the idea of gay marriage and hear how Vermonters feel about it. The panel, which opponents say is stacked with gay marriage supporters and have boycotted, has held seven hearings and has three more scheduled.

The hearings have generated plenty of input, but no name-calling or personal attacks.

James LaPierre, who has a civil union partner and two children, saw the contrast firsthand. He went to a 2000 meeting on civil unions intending to get up and speak, but he was intimidated by the atmosphere and kept quiet.

"People would stand up and go to the microphone and there was jeering and catcalling," said LaPierre, 43, a nurse from Burlington. "It was hateful, and scary."

Last month, LaPierre went to a hearing by the Commission on Family Recognition. This time, the gathering was "supportive" and he got up and spoke. But it had fewer people — about 100, by his count, compared with about 500 at the 2000 event.

"Instead of a hateful, unruly, mob-like meeting, it was civil and organized. There was representation of the other side, but only two or three people," he said.

Now…you see how that works?  When people can see for themselves that gay folks aren’t monsters out to destroy America and Family Life and Moral Values things get a lot calmer.


Opponents believe the change in tone may have more to do with their boycott — and the lack of impending action — than acceptance of gay marriage.

There’s the reason things are more civil today in Vermont then they were in 2000.  It’s the boycott.  The bigots figured they were going to loose…probably even worse this time then in 2000 because their vitriolic hate looks so ugly in retrospect…and so they called a boycott of the town meetings.  And so…surprise, surprise…things are a lot calmer now. 

This isn’t so much an indication of progress, as a reminder that things would have been a lot calmer back then too, were it not for the hate mongers.  Nobody’s really moved on this issue; the majority of Vermonters didn’t object to same sex marriage or they’d have thrown out of office all the politicians who supported it and that wasn’t what happened.  Only the bigots care, and of course they still care as much now as they ever did.  If you could teach a bigot something they wouldn’t be bigots.  The only thing that’s changed in Vermont is that this time the bigots aren’t going to those town meetings to whip everyone into a frenzy of hate.  So things are calmer.  How…unsurprising.

One Response to “How To Have A Civil Debate On Same Sex Marriage”

  1. The Story So Far… » Blog Archive » Come…Let Us Reason Together…About Your Much Shorter Lifespan… Says:

    […] Earlier this year the Vermont legislature appointed an 11-member Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection to explore the idea of gay marriage and hear how Vermonters feel about it.  They conducted hearings all over the state, and something amazing happened.  The conversation was civil.  There was no cat-calling, no screaming and shouting, no personal attacks.  Why?  Because the anti-gay opposition boycotted the hearings.  They weren’t silenced.  They weren’t shouted down.  They weren’t censored.  They simply chose not to participate, claiming that the hearings were stacked against them.  But with the hate mongers out of it, the people were able to have what they weren’t supposed to have, what the hate mongers didn’t want them to have.  Dialogue.  See how that works? […]

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