Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mnookin: Marriage Equality

This time of year is full of celebrations, from Fourth of July picnics, parades, and fireworks, to family reunions and that other summer staple, the outdoor wedding.

I, myself, had an outdoor summer wedding. Five years ago, my wife, Laura, and I were married on a hill overlooking an heirloom apple orchard in Dummerston. Surrounded by our family and friends, we shared lifelong vows of commitment and love.

This summer, we’ll officiate together at the wedding of friends in California.

There is both honor and irony in this, since our defined role is to "witness the consent of the intended spouses and ensure the validity of the marriage"  in a state that until today, would have denied the validity of our own marriage.

California is one of nine states that has attempted to maintain “partial marriage equality,” a misnomer that recognizes civil unions and domestic partnerships but not same-sex marriages. In fact, California is one of thirty states in which marriage is defined in the state constitution as being strictly reserved for a relationship between a man and a woman.

Laura and I feel very fortunate and proud to live in Vermont. The state Legislature voted for full marriage equality in 2009, and it was the first state to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples in 2000. We receive the same state benefits as opposite-sex married couples, such as filing jointly on our Vermont tax return and sharing spousal health-care benefits.

But that hasn’t been true on the federal level. Regardless of state status, Laura and I have been denied more than one thousand federal rights provided to opposite-sex spouses. To name just a few, we could not file jointly on our federal tax returns, and we could be refused federal employee, veterans, and Social Security benefits.

But with today’s Supreme Court decision, this inequality will have to end. And it seems particularly fitting just before the Fourth of July, a holiday commemorating the Declaration of Independence. It opens by stating, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Five years ago, on that hill overlooking the apple orchard, the vows we took included the recognition of many couples, like ourselves, who were not allowed the sanctity of marriage. Then, only two states recognized same-sex marriages; eventually, twelve states plus the District of Columbia committed to full marriage equality. And finally, today, the Supreme Court has declared DOMA unconstitutional. So this summer, as officiants, we are thrilled to think that our hope for all people to be treated equally and all couples to share equally in the protection and blessing of marriage, may finally be coming true.

Abigail Mnookin is a former biology teacher interested in issues of equality and the environment. She is currently organizing parents around climate justice with 350Vermont, and lives in Brattleboro with her wife and their two daughters.
Latest Stories