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(Amicus) Groundbreaking case seeking the right to marry for same-sex couples in Vermont


In July 2000, Vermont’s groundbreaking law establishing civil unions took effect, providing families of same-sex couples the same protections, benefits and responsibilities that married couples have under state law except for the powerful meaning conveyed by the word marriage. The civil unions law — the first of its kind in the nation — was passed in response to a Vermont Supreme Court ruling ordering state legislators to find a way to provide equal treatment for same-sex couples. The Vermont Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights and the People For the American Way Foundation joined Lambda Legal in a friend-of-the-court brief before the Vermont Supreme Court, written by Evan Wolfson, cooperating attorneys Elizabeth Foster and Lawson Vicario of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and local counsel Richard Cassidy.

Lambda Legal’s Impact

This case marks the first time a high court in a marriage case ordered a state legislature to give same-sex couples the same rights, protections, benefits and obligations that different-sex couples get through marriage. Although the benefits that flow from the word marriage were left out, the case marked a critical landmark on the road to marriage equality.

    • December 1999 Vermont Supreme Court orders state legislature to extend to same-sex couples the same rights, protections, benefits and obligations available to different-sex couples couples through marriage.
    • April 2000 Vermont legislature passes landmark civil unions measure, making Vermont the first state in the nation to extend to same-sex couples a status parallel to marriage.
    • July 2000 Historic new law takes effect.