Two states so alike yet also very different

When the Vermont Legislature overrode Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a bill allowing gay marriage a record was set. It was the first time in this country — and perhaps in any country in the world — that two-thirds of a state lawmaking body approved allowing marriage between gay couples.
Less than a week earlier the Supreme Court of Iowa legalized same-sex marriage in that state.
The super-majority de-cision in Vermont was the more significant of these events. Unlike a high court, a legislature is elected by the people and is responsible to the people.
Two of our sons live in Vermont. Their newspapers come to the house along with our own so we feel kinship with the state and can assure Register readers that Vermont is very much like Kansas; its people are very much like Kansans.
So why did Kansans pass a constitutional amendment a year or so ago banning same-sex marriage while Vermont went in exactly the opposite direction?
Part of the explanation, I suspect, is that Vermont is a small state full of very small communities, which still practices town meeting government and puts great store on communities and personal liberties.
Vermonters live close to each other, run their cities and schools in public meetings, and have learned tolerance be-cause mutuality is practically forced upon them.
They also are more bookish than most Americans. Maybe the long, cold winters contribute to that. In any case, the readers of the St. Albans Messager, which son Emerson publishes, and the Addison Independent, where son Angelo holds forth, regularly write literate letters to those editors which show a high level of learning and deep interest in public affairs, philosophy and the human condition.
Many of those letter writers support same-sex marriage because, they say, they can see no reason to discriminate and because they believe the state should do what it can to contribute to the happiness of every citizen, even those who belong to a tiny minority of the state’s population

THE STORY in the New York Times reporting the action of the Vermont Legislature was illustrated with a photograph of a lovely lady perhaps 55 years old, who had reached over to grab a companion’s arm in joy when the vote was announced. She was smiling radiantly.
That picture of a gray-haired, bespectacled, rather plump matron celebrating the decision to expand human rights and human liberty surely reassured the lawmakers who voted with that super-majority they had done the right thing.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.