Former Vt. governor Jim Douglas’ memoir tackles same-sex marriage veto

Former Vt. governor Jim Douglas’ memoir tackles same-sex marriage veto
Jim Douglas
Former Gov. Jim Douglas (R-Vt.) Matt Rourke, AP

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Former Gov. Jim Douglas says he was acting on conscience in 2009 when he vetoed a same-sex marriage law that had been passed by the state Legislature.

In a frank new memoir being released Wednesday, the 63-year-old Douglas said that he had no objection to same-sex couples forming relationships and that he and his wife Dorothy have gay friends.

“I believe, however, that the institution of marriage is worth preserving in its traditional form,” Douglas wrote in “The Vermont Way: A Republican Governor Leads America’s Most Liberal State.”

Almost four years after he left office and after a string of federal court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage, Douglas said last week that when he vetoed the gay marriage bill, he was acting on information he had at the time. He said he couldn’t speculate about what he would do now if faced with the same decision.

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“Initially, I thought I wouldn’t write about that at all, but then I thought people would say, ‘He’s running away from that,'” Douglas said.

In the book, Douglas runs away from little, taking readers from his boyhood in Massachusetts – where as a 13-year-old he stuffed envelopes for 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater – his time as a student at Middlebury College, his election to the Vermont Legislature at 21, his eight years as governor from 2003 to 2011 and his reflections on the current state of politics.

Over the course of a political career that spanned 40 years, Douglas only lost one election – his 1992 run for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Patrick Leahy, the veteran politician who still holds the seat.

Fast forward to 2009, when Douglas vetoed the gay marriage bill. The Legislature overrode his veto, and Vermont, the state that in 2000 was the first to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples, enacted a gay marriage law the same year as New Hampshire and Iowa.

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