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Introduced by   Representative Larson of Burlington

Referred to Committee on


Subject:  Domestic relations; marriage

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to permit same-sex couples to marry and to allow clergy the right to refuse to solemnize a marriage if to do so would violate the clergyperson’s right to religious liberty protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by Article I, Chapter 3 of the Constitution of the State of Vermont.


It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:


This act may be referred to and cited as “An Act to Protect Religious Freedom and Eliminate Discrimination in Civil Marriage.”

Sec. 2.  PURPOSE

The purpose of this act is to eliminate gender-based discrimination in the civil marriage laws and to protect the religious freedom of clergy and religious societies authorized to solemnize civil marriages.

Sec. 3.  15 V.S.A. § 8 is amended to read:

Marriage is the legally recognized union of one man and one woman two people.  Gender-specific terms relating to the marital relationship or familial relationships, including without limitation “spouse,” “family,” “marriage,” “immediate family,” “dependent,” “next of kin,” “bride,” “groom,” “husband,” “wife,” “widow,” and “widower,” shall be construed to be gender-neutral for all purposes throughout the law, whether in the context of statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil law.

Sec. 4.  15 V.S.A. § 1202(2) is amended to read:

(2)  Be of the same sex and therefore excluded from the marriage laws of this state.

Sec. 5.  18 V.S.A. § 5131(a) is amended to read:

(a)  Upon application in a form prescribed by the department, a town clerk shall issue to a person a civil marriage license in the form prescribed by the department and shall enter thereon the names of the parties to the proposed marriage, fill out the form as far as practicable and retain in the clerk’s office a copy thereof.  At least one party to the proposed marriage shall sign the certifying application to the accuracy of the facts so stated.  The license shall be issued by the clerk of the town where either the bride or groom party resides or, if neither is a resident of the state, by any town clerk in the state.

Sec. 6.  18 V.S.A. § 5144 is amended to read:

§ 5144.  Persons authorized to solemnize marriage

(a)  Marriages may be solemnized by a supreme court justice, a superior court judge, a district judge, a judge of probate, an assistant judge or a justice of the peace, or by a member of the clergy residing in this state and ordained or licensed, or otherwise regularly authorized thereunto by the published laws or discipline of the general conference, convention or other authority of his or her faith or denomination or by such a clergy person residing in an adjoining state or country, whose parish, church, temple, mosque, or other religious organization lies wholly or in part in this state, or by a member of the clergy residing in some other state of the United States or in the Dominion of Canada, provided he or she has first secured from the probate court of the district within which the marriage is to be solemnized a special authorization, authorizing him or her to certify the marriage if such probate judge determines that the circumstances make the special authorization desirable.  Marriage among the Friends or Quakers, the Christadelphian Ecclesia, and the Baha’i Faith may be solemnized in the manner heretofore used in such societies.

(b)  No member of the clergy authorized to solemnize a marriage as set forth in subsection (a) of this section, nor societies of Friends or Quakers, the Christadelphian Ecclesia, or the Baha’i Faith shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of the right to religious liberty protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by Article I, Chapter 3 of the Constitution of the State of Vermont.

Sec. 7.  REPEAL

15 V.S.A. § 1201(4) (marriage definition) is repealed.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont