2nd August 15:33
A Reality Check for Howard Dean (id)
(Dean speech, Feb. 21, 2003): "Six months before my last re-
election [in 2000] I signed a bill into law that made Vermont
the first state in America to guarantee equal rights to every
person under the law. … That bill was called the civil unions
bill. And it said that marriage is between a man and a woman,
but same-*** couples are entitled to the exact same legal rights
as I have—hospital visitation, insurance, and inheritance
rights. … This bill was at about 40 percent in the polls when I
signed it. Sixty percent were against it, six months before the
election. I never got a chance to ask myself whether signing it
was a good idea or not because I knew that if I were willing to
sell out the rights of a whole group of human beings because it
might be politically inconvenient for a future office I might
run for, then I had wasted my time in public service. I looked
in the mirror, and I knew that if my political career were about
myself, then I would not have signed that bill. But my political
career has never been about getting elected. … My political
career is about change."
Reality check: Dean had no choice but to accept such a bill. In
December 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that Vermont was
"constitutionally required to extend to same-*** couples the
common benefits and protections that flow from marriage under
Vermont law." The court instructed the legislature to grant ***s
"inclusion within the marriage laws themselves or a parallel
'domestic partnership' or some equivalent statutory alternative."
Given that choice, Dean took the more conservative option.
According to the Associated Press, Vermont's lieutenant governor
and House speaker supported *** marriage, but Dean didn't. ***
marriage "makes me uncomfortable, the same as anybody else,"
Dean said at the time. He did encourage the legislature to pass
a civil unions bill. But the alternative he averted was
legalizing *** marriage, not preventing *** domestic
Many supporters of the bill criticized Dean for signing it "in
the closet," in private and without a ceremony.
The reason Dean looks bold on this issue is that conservatives
attacked him for supporting and signing the bill. In 2000, his
Republican opponent accused him of threatening and bribing
lawmakers to vote for the bill. Dean got so many threats that he
had to wear a bulletproof vest. And the issue did sharply reduce
his margin of victory.