US: Same-sex health benefits bill passes initial vote in Vermont House

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The House in the US state of Vermont has voted in favour of a bill which requires out-of-state companies to offer equal healthcare benefits to same-sex couples as they offer to opposite-sex couples.

Supporters of the bill have said that the legislation would be a big step forward for LGBT rights in the state.

The Democratic Representative Lippert of Hinesburg, said on Friday that the vote would coincide with the thirteenth anniversary of the House’s initial vote which advanced the state’s civil unions bill.

The bill passed with 139 votes to 5, and was subjected to only fifteen minutes of debate.

One question raised was over whether the state would be able to defend such a measure, if it were to be challenged under the Defense of Marriage Act.

The US state of Vermont legalised equal marriage in 2009, after the House voted 100-49, overriding a veto from Jim Douglas, State Governor.

In September, Vermont signed a legal bid requesting an appeals court to rule that the legal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court is due on 27 March to hear evidence around the case of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, passed under President Bill Clinton in 1996.

On 26 March, the court will also take up the case of whether to overturn Proposition 8, which in 2008 added a clause to the Californian constitution stating that marriage could only be recognised by the state if it were between a man and a woman, causing widespread controversy.