Same-Sex Marriages

December 23, 1999

In a landmark decision reached Monday, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in favor of three same-sex couples who challenged the constitutionality of Vermont’s marriage laws. The Court concluded in Baker v. State that statutory benefits and protections of marriage must be extended to same-sex couples, and instructed the state legislature to remedy the discrimination.

Now, same-sex couples in Vermont are eligible for a wide variety of protections of laws which recognize the relationship of married partners. For example, partners will be able to inherit from each other without a will, transfer property to each other without paying taxes, and make medical decisions if the other spouse is incapacitated.

Meanwhile, across the country in California, a ballot initiative called Proposition 22-which is sponsored by State Senator Peter Knight-would prevent California from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. This would include couples who were married in other states. The Knight Initiative would add the following provision to the California Family Code:

"Only a marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized."

Well, a study recently released by a Stanford University law professor says that Proposition 22 would have a harmful effect on families and children. Wald concludes that children raised by gay and lesbian couples are as well off as children of heterosexual parents, and that same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships function no differently in terms of stability, commitment and parenting. He also concludes that passage of the initiative would stigmatize same-sex unions, would harm the emotional and economic well-being of the children involved, and would threaten any existing or future benefits of gay and lesbian couples.


  • Michael Wald, Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law at Stanford University.
  • Mary Bonauto, civil rights project director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and co-counsel in Baker v. State.