News (USA)

Vt. House passes bill requiring equal heath coverage for married, gay couples

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont House of Representatives has voted to require out-of-state companies that offer health coverage to the spouses of opposite-sex married couples to provide the same benefits to same-sex couples.

Advocates say the measure would go a long way toward extending the rights of gay and lesbian couples in Vermont.

Progressive Party Rep. Chris Pearson of Burlington, who co-sponsored the legislation, said it’s an important step in an “ongoing process” of “peeling back the layers of discrimination.”

Democratic Rep. Lippert of Hinesburg pointed out Friday that the vote would coincide with the 13th anniversary of the House’s first vote advancing the civil unions bill, reported Vermont Public Radio.

Vermont legalized gay marriage in 2009.

The bill passed 139-to-5 after less than 15 minutes of debate. But some legislators ask though, whether the state could defend such a measure if challenged under the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

House Speaker Shap Smith said the bill includes the qualifying language that should make sure the state law does not interfere with federal law, and he thinks that language should take care of any challenges from companies that don’t want to comply with the new requirements.

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