Saturday July 16, 2011

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Our corner of Vermont is unique.

The latest proof of this is the fact that Windham County is home to 323 same-sex couples, or 16.74 per every 1,000 people, the biggest ratio in all of the Green Mountain State.

Even though Chittenden County has more same-sex couples -- 838 -- its per 1,000 resident number is 13.56, according to a recent report from the Williams Institute.

Vermont was the second state in the nation (California was the first) to legalize civil unions, in April 2010, and the first civil union in the state was celebrated in Brattleboro.

In 2009, Vermont was the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage after the Legislature overturned a veto by then-Governor James Douglas.

Vermont should be proud that it grants all citizens the same rights and, unlike our neighbor across the river, it has no plans to take marriage rights away from one demographic of its residents.

It's highly unlikely that Vermont would ever give in to the bigots, the homophobes and those who use the Bible to justify their intolerance, both within its borders and around the country, who are attempting to roll back marriage equality laws and continue to support the hypocritically entitled "Defense of Marriage Act."

As the Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Of course, if you don't believe in the evolution of beliefs over time, then only white, male landowners qualify as "men" and the Founding Fathers surely didn't have gay marriage in mind when they put their signatures on that great declaration that still resonates today.

But by that same reasoning, we would still have slaves, women wouldn't have the right to vote, and those of different races wouldn't be able to intermarry.

It shouldn't need to be pointed out but "all men" now means "all human beings."

Some of those opposed to same-sex marriage claim that being gay is a lifestyle choice and is not "hard-wired" into the brain.

But, we ask, who would willingly subject themselves to the vitriol, ridicule, hostility and violence that many gay people must deal with every day unless it was an immutable part of who they are?

We'll hazard a guess: Not many of us.

So while many Americans to this day still fight for equal rights, Vermonters should celebrate their tolerance, their compassion and their willingness to stand up to the narrow-minded.