Vermont commemorates civil unions with historic-site marker at state house

Commemoration ceremony for historic-site marker honoring the state's first-in-the-nation civil union law and subsequent marriage equality legislation. Photo by Stefan Hard/The Times Argus via AP

A historic-site marker was raised on the Vermont State House lawn to commemorate the first civil union legislation in the country, which the state passed in 2000.

Associated Press reporter Lisa Rathke covered the ceremony:

The marker was ceremoniously unveiled Tuesday by two of the three gay couples who were plaintiffs in the Vermont Supreme Court case that led to civil unions, along with Beth Robinson, a lawyer at the time who served as co-counsel in the case and is now a Supreme Court justice.

“Since its founding, Vermont has been a leader in protecting and furthering civil rights, embracing diversity and promoting tolerance,” Republican Vermont Governor Phil Scott said.

[Governor Scott] commended legislators, advocates and then-Governor Howard Dean, a Democrat, for passing the policy that made Vermont the first state to grant legal recognition to same-sex couples.

State lawmakers passed marriage equality legislation in 2009, and the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.

Having a marker commemorating the events is “unbelievable,” said Lois Farnham, of Middlebury, who attended the ceremony with her partner, Holly Patterbaugh. The couple, now in their 70s, wore matching tie-dyed t-shirts bearing the message “It’s Just Love.”

Former state Representative Herb Russell, a Democrat who received a civil union and later got married in Vermont, sought the marker because he believed the historic event deserved to be commemorated.

“We’re very proud of the fact that the first civil union law was in Vermont,” he said. “And I felt strongly that we needed to document that history and take great pride and claim our role in the historic path of equality in this country.”