Vermont Businesses Urge Veto Override

Apr 6 2009
Shay Totten

The House approved the measure Friday by a final vote of 94-52, while the Senate passed its version a week earlier by a wider 26-4 tally. The Senate is convening this afternoon to approve the House version of the bill, which made some minor corrections and clarified that religious institutions and clergy could not be sued for refusing to preside over a same-sex marriage.

The governor has promised legislative leaders a quick veto - tonight in fact - allowing both chambers to hold veto sessions tomorrow. First the Senate, and then the House. I'm told all could be wrapped up by lunchtime.

As of this afternoon, it's clear the Senate will have the votes to override a gubernatorial veto. It's unclear in the House, but backers are hopeful they can cross the 100-vote threshold. That is, if all 150 member show up. By law, a veto can be overturned by a two-thirds majority of those present.

It's coming down to the wire, folks. It's razor thin, and win or lose expect it to be within just a few votes. If it loses, though, the issue is likely to come back next session — if not sooner — as there would likely be a court challenge. Hey, if they can sue and win in Iowa, why not Vermont.

Here's the full text of the letter. Some surprise signatories (not the "usual suspects" as they say) are Win Smith of Sugarbush and the folks from the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The times they are a changin'.


We're writing to you today because your vote to override the Governor's veto of S. 115, An Act to Protect Religious Freedom and Promote Equality in Civil Marriage, affects the ability of all businesses in Vermont to recruit the talented people we need to ensure the continued development of vital businesses; the kind of businesses like those we lead, which pay wages and have long futures in our state.

As you know, most of the higher paid jobs in traditional manufacturing companies, at which many Vermonters worked, are gone. Jobs in the tool and die industry, the paper mills and the appliance factories are a small fraction of what they once were. They are being replaced by jobs in high tech, software development, specialty foods and the hospitality industry. These industries depend on a supply of smart, creative people to keep us ahead of our competitors.

Potential employees come in all sorts of colors, sizes and gender. We put forth our best offers to attract such people. We show them our beautiful state. We show them our wonderful schools. We show them the exceptional quality of life in Vermont.

Sometimes our efforts work. Sometimes they don't. Other states are beautiful. Other states have wonderful schools. Other states have exceptional quality of life.

Some of our potential employees are gay and lesbian. We put forth the same efforts with these people. Sometimes these efforts work. Sometimes they don't. Imagine if we could also tell them that in Vermont, the state recognizes their freedom to marry and enjoy all the rights and privileges associated with that commitment. That would give us an advantage that very few states have. The generation that we are trying to attract is different from ours. They don't care about racial, ethnic, gender or sexual orientation differences. They like living among people from diverse backgrounds. They gravitate to places where those differences make life more exciting.

You can help us attract the smartest, most talented, most creative members of the younger (also some older) generation. You can make sure that those who are gay and lesbian have the right to marry, and you can make sure that those who aren't have a social environment which includes those who are. You can ensure the leadership role Vermont has taken historically when it comes to equal human rights and freedom of choice, values that make us an extraordinary state.

You can do this by voting to override Governor Douglas' veto. Your vote will move Vermont forward economically. We know, because that cross section of people is what moves our businesses forward.

Just ask the leaders of the new Vermont business class. We'll be happy to tell you how freedom to marry makes Vermont a fair and just state, creating a better business climate.

Thanks for considering our request.

Don Mayer
CEO, Small Dog Electronics

Paul Millman
President, Chroma Technology

Walt Freese
CEO, Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

Jeffrey Hollender
President, Seventh Generation

Bill Schubart
Founder and Chair, Resolution, Inc.

Barbi and Paul Schulick
Founders, New Chapter, Inc.

David Sellers
Chairman, Mad River Rocket Co.
Sellers & Company

Mark Schulman
President, Goddard College

Scott Johnstone
Executive Director, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation

Win Smith
President, Sugarbush

Bill Church
President, Green Mountain Antibodies

Rich Kalich
President, Vermed

Susan M. Klein
Executive Director, Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce

Melinda Moulton
CEO, Main Street Landing

Pennie Beach
Owner, Basin Harbor Club

Russ Bennett
President, NorthLand Design & Construction, Inc.

Ellen Mercer Fallon, Esq.
Langrock Sperry & Wool, LLP

Rolf Kielman, AIA
Principal, TruexCullins, Architects