MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Senate has joined the House in passing a resolution apologizing to Vermonters, their families and descendants who were harmed by state-sanctioned eugenics policies and practices that led to sterilizations.
Some Vermonters of mixed French Canadian and Native American heritage, as well as poor, rural white people, were placed on a state-sanctioned list of “mental defectives” and “degenerates" and sent to state institutions. Some had surgery after Vermont in 1931 became one of more than two dozen states to pass a law allowing voluntary sterilizations for “human betterment.”
“While sterilization plays a major part of the eugenics story, it’s important to know that the Vermont General Assembly created elements of eugenics by segregation and institutionalization,” said Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland, in reporting the bill on Wednesday, the Bennington Banner reported. “We removed children from their families involuntarily, we removed adults from their families involuntarily, we placed restrictions on marriage, and we did it on a discriminatory basis.”
Senate Pro Tem Rebecca Balint said the resolution “doesn’t repair the damage done to individuals, families and communities" but that's important to "publicly declare that the eugenics movement was horrific and abhorrent.”
“Healing can only begin after a sincere apology and a commitment to do better,” she said.
In 2019, then-University of Vermont President Thomas Sullivan apologized for the school’s involvement in eugenics research in the 1920s and 1930s, and the university also removed a former school president’s name from the library because of his support of the Eugenics Survey of Vermont and its leader, a UVM professor.