Governor’s veto of bill stirs controversy

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Some called him a homophobe. Some accused him of spreading hatred. Some thanked him, or applauded him for showing ‘backbone’ in the face of pressure from gay rights advocates. In the first two days after he pledged to veto a same-sex marriage bill, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas’ mailbag and e-mail inbox runneth over, with about 1,500 letters and messages pouring in. Some were critical: – ‘(Vetoing the bill) would clearly show the deep feelings of discrimination, bigotry and hate you feel for a group of Vermont people who have already had to wait for equal marriage rights in our state too long,’ wrote a Newport man. -‘Being ahead of one’s time is what brought slavery and racial discrimination to an end … please support the Freedom to Marry bill,’ wrote a Putney man. – ‘…your choice to veto is a slap in the face and a firm reminder that in your opinion, my partner and I are worth less than others simply because we are of the same gender,’ wrote a South Burlington man, saying he refuses to be ‘a second class citizen in this state.’ Some were supportive: – ‘It takes courage,’ wrote a woman from Ovando, Mont. ‘Keep up the fight. Our prayers are with you. You are setting an example for other states.’ – ‘Our children, grand children will be harmed by this bill,’ wrote a Milton woman. ‘I’ve seen what their teaching can do to a impressionistic teenage (sic) like my nephew, who is very confused. Please, please, please veto this bill.’ – ‘Your stance is reasonable and not unkind,’ wrote a Burlington woman. ‘It must have been a difficult political decision, but right nonetheless. There are many Vermonters who are with you, but simply don’t how to articulate it. Hold firm!’ The missives, made available in response to an Access to Public Records Act request filed by the Associated Press, show the ardor of both supporters and opponents on the issue and on Douglas’ planned veto of a bill legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Democrats in the Legislature say they plan to pass the bill that would legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples. But the Republican governor said last Wednesday he will veto it if they do. His announcement has galvanized forces on both sides of the issue, prompting the flood of mail from around the nation. The state Senate has approved the measure, and the state House of Representatives is expected to vote on it Friday. ‘This is an emotional, divisive issue,’ Douglas spokeswoman Dennise Casey said. Prior to Douglas’ announcement, the letters and e-mails on gay marriage were running about 70 percent against the bill to legalize it, Casey said. Since the announcement, supporters of same-sex marriage have been outnumbering opponents, with 60 percent of the letters and e-mails received speaking in favor it and 40 percent against, she said. Some supporters pledged to take out their displeasure at the ballot box, threatening to vote against Douglas. ‘You have disappointed me,’ wrote a Middlesex man. ‘I will vote against you in the primary if you choose to seek re-election, and I will not vote for you again in any election,’ said the man, who said he was from a family now turning from ‘formerly loyal Republicans into Democrats.’ Hang in there, same-sex marriage opponents told him. ‘I know you are under great pressure from all sorts of pro-gay lobbies/groups, but it’s time that people used some backbone and stood against these pressures, no matter what the cost,’ wrote a man from Indianapolis, Ind.