STATE OF VERMONT
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
135 STATE STREET, DRAWER 33
MONTPELIER, VT 05633-6301
TEL: (800) 416-2010 or (802) 829-2480 (Voice/TDD)
FAX: (802) 828-2481
VERMONT'S CIVIL UNION AND PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS LAWS
Vermont's Fair Housing & Public Accommodations Act (FHPA), 9 V.S.A. § 4500 et seq., prohibits owners, operators, employees, and agents of public accommodations from denying any person any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of a place of public accommodation because of the persons:
- race or color
- national origin
- marital status
- sexual orientation
See 9 V.S.A. § 4502(a).
FHPA defines place of public accommodation as any school, restaurant, store, establishment or other facility at which services, facilities, goods, privileges, advantages, benefits or accommodations are offered to the general public. 9 V.S.A. § 4501 (1). The following types of entities are public accommodations:
- hotels, motels, and inns1
- restaurants, taverns, and bars
- theaters and museums
- service providers
- train and bus stations and airports
- town recreation facilities, video arcades, and bowling alleys
- schools, colleges, and universities
- health and fitness centers and gymnasiums
- state and local government offices
- professionals' offices, such as doctors' and lawyers' offices
The provision of Section 4502 prohibiting discrimination based upon sexual orientation was added to FHPA in 1992. It covers the refusal of a public accommodation to provide services to parties to a civil union because of the parties' sexual orientation.
The Human Rights Commission is charged by statute with enforcing FHPA by conducting investigations and filing lawsuits, among other means. The Commission will commence an investigation if it receives a complaint about the following types of activities:
- town clerk's office refuses to issue civil union licenses,
- justice of the peace who performs marriages refuses to certify civil unions,
- restaurant or inn where couples hold weddings and wedding receptions refuses to allow partners to a civil union to hold civil union ceremonies or receptions, and
- a caterer, tuxedo rental establishment, florist, or photographer that provides services for weddings and receptions refuses to provide the services for civil union ceremonies or receptions.
In addition, parties to civil unions who have been refused services by public accommodations because of their sexual orientation may file lawsuits under FHPA seeking injunctive relief, damages, attorney's fees and costs.
For more information, contact the Human Rights Commission at:
800-416-2010 or 802-828-2482 (Voice/TTY)
1 FHPA allows owners and operators of inns, motels, or other establishments which provide lodging to transient guests and which have five or fewer rooms for rent or hire to restrict such accommodations on the basis of sex or marital status (but not on the basis of sexual orientation). 9 V.S.A. § 4502(d).