Vermont courts likely to address Candian gay marriage

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(Host) According to Attorney General William Sorrell, Vermont is the most likely state in the country to recognize gay marriages from Canada. Sorrell expects the issue to be resolved in the Vermont court system in the near future.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) In the coming weeks and months, dozens of gay couples from Vermont are expected to cross the state’s northern border to get married in Canada. That’s likely to happen because the federal government in Canada has decided not to challenge an Ontario appeals court decision that allows same sex couples to obtain a marriage license.

Canada also doesn’t have any residency requirements for marriage so couples can make a day trip across the border to get married. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell says the legality of these marriages in the United States will depend largely on where the individuals live:

(Sorrell) “The general law is that a state recognizes a marriage from another state unless it’s against that’s states public policy. Now I believe a majority of the states, 37 or so, have passed so called ‘defense of marriage acts’ or DOMA statutes, that basically clearly make it against public policy to recognize gay unions or gay marriage or civil unions. Vermont doesn’t have such a law.”

(Kinzel) Because of Vermont’s proximity to Canada, Sorrell thinks the issue of state recognition will be raised in Vermont’s court system. Sorrell will not be surprised if Vermont recognizes gay Canadian marriages because the state Supreme Court addressed this issue in its landmark Baker decision:

(Sorrell) “It seems to me that a fairly strong argument can be made that, given the fact that we do recognize civil unions under our law, that under the Baker decision the Supreme Court said the Legislature could have granted gay marriage to afford the constitutional rights to equal benefits and protections of marriage to gays as are enjoyed by heterosexual couples.”

(Kinzel) Sorrell says it’s not clear if a Vermont gay couple with a Canadian marriage license will automatically receive the benefits and protections of a civil union without specifically applying for it. Sorrell says it’s likely that this issue will also need to be resolved in the Vermont court system.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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