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Iowa, Vermont Push Gay Marriage Rights Forward

Vermont's legislature and the top court of Iowa delivered legal victories in recent weeks to those seeking the right of same-sex couples to marry. And as battles in other state capitals continue, Americans are weighing the issue with other pressing concerns.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Backers of same-sex marriage gained a major victory at the state level yesterday, capping a week of big developments in the battle playing out in state courts and capitals.

    NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins with some background.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    It was an emotional moment for supporters of same-sex marriage in Vermont. On Tuesday, legislators there voted to legalize same-sex marriage, narrowly overriding a veto from Republican Governor Jim Douglas.

    Shap Smith is the House speaker.

    REP. SHAP SMITH, D, Vermont House speaker: For the people who are voting to override the veto, they are basically voting to support the majority of Vermonters.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Vermont's vote marks the first time a state has allowed same-sex marriage by legislative action rather than a court ruling. It also makes Vermont the fourth state — joining Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa — to allow gay marriages.

    The decision came just days after Iowa's Supreme Court voted unanimously to legalize gay marriages there. Kathy and Kim Gibson arrived at their county recorder's office on Monday to apply for a marriage license.

    KATHY GIBSON, newly married: Why is being the first important? Because we've been waiting for 18 years.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Supporters celebrated the back-to-back victories. Beth Robinson is with the Freedom to Marry Task Force in Vermont.

    BETH ROBINSON, Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force: I think the Iowa Supreme Court decision on Friday really drove home that this isn't some radical, newfangled idea that's going away.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    But Governor Douglas said many disagreed with the decision to allow same-sex marriage.

  • GOV. JIM DOUGLAS, R, Vermont:

    I think this is such an emotional, divisive, personal issue, it's something that individuals have to decide how to vote on based on their personal convictions and faith.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The battle is hardly over. California's top court allowed gay marriages last year, but a voter initiative in November reversed that decision.

    Meanwhile, there are other efforts to provide legal protections for same-sex couples. Washington, D.C.'s, city council voted yesterday to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. New York state already does so.

    Five more states — New Jersey, New Hampshire, Washington, Oregon, and California — provide some legal protections for civil unions or domestic partnerships.

    But voters in 29 other states have approved constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.

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