States of Marriage Explores The Debate Over Gay Rights

Jun 26, 2013

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday morning struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which means same-sex marriage will be recognized by the federal government.

In 2009, VPR examined the issue of same-sex marriage with the documentary States of Marriage.

VPR spoke with Beth Robinson, one of the lawyers on the case that lead to Vermont’s Civil Unions law. At the time of the interview, Robinson was in private practice; she now serves on the Vermont Supreme Court.

Robinson and her law partner, Susan Murray, laid the groundwork for the court case that would test Vermont's marriage statute.

Robinson was intent on learning from the failed attempts in other states.  Even in cases where courts ruled for same-sex marriage, popular opinion said otherwise.  In Vermont, Robinson wanted an argument that would win.

"Our first move here in Vermont was not to file a court case but to found the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, which we did in the fall of 1995.  We knew that we needed to establish an infrastructure, begin doing public education and organizing," Robinson said.

Here’s the story of the legal fight that lead to Vermont’s Civil Union law, and the political fallout that spurred the Take Back Vermont movement.

Ten years after Civil Unions, other states had gone a step farther by legalizing same-sex marriage. Vermont’s debate over marriage was far more staid than the eruption that Civil Unions provoked. 

Listen to the full States of Marriage documentary or read the transcript.