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Vermont gay marriage law takes effect Tuesday

VermontVermont’s gay marriage law is set to go into effect on Tuesday, September 1st, and supporters of same-sex marriage already are gearing up for what promises to be an emotional week.

But officials are not expecting a rush to the altar.

The landscape has changed since 2000, when lawmakers passed the civil union legislation, making Vermont the first in the nation to offer some sort of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Gays and lesbians from across the country – but especially New England – flocked to Vermont.

After the civil unions law took effect July 1, 2000, there were 1,704 civil unions established in the next six months, including 405 in July alone. Out-of-state residents accounted for 78 percent of them, most involving couples from New York, Massachusetts and California, according to the state’s vital records. Nearly 69 percent were between female partners.

But since then, neighboring states have gone further. Massachusetts led the pack by allowing same-sex couples to start marrying in 2005, followed by Connecticut and New Hampshire in New England, and Iowa later followed suit.

The slow start to the same-sex marriage law may also be rooted in timing. When the Legislature adopted the law in April, it set Sept. 1 as the effective date, thereby missing out on the summer wedding season.

Greg Trulson, a Duxbury Justice of the Peace who says he has several gay marriages lined up, said, “What I have found, that a lot of the gay marriages that I’m officiating now starting after September first are other civil unions that I have officiated in the past. And they’re coming back to get married — and what we’re finding is they’re coming back on the day of their civil union, to keep the same day for their marriage.”

In April, the Vermont legislature passed the gay marriage law when the House and Senate voted to override Gov. James Douglas’s veto of the measure.

In honor of the new rights for gay and lesbian couples, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream is marking the occasion in typically sweet fashion. They’re renaming their “Chubby Hubby” flavor “Hubby Hubby” for the month.

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