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Vt. Lawmakers Ousted Over Gay Law

September 13, 2000

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ Vermont voters had their first chance to weigh in on the civil unions law _ and they sent a mixed message.

Five Republican state legislators who supported the law granting gay couples many of the rights and benefits of marriage were defeated in their primaries Tuesday. One Democrat who opposed the law was also ousted.

Four Republicans and one Democrat who were targeted for defeat because they backed the law survived their primaries. Another lawmaker who was challenged for opposing the law was re-elected.

It was the first opportunity voters have had to register their views since the Legislature earlier this year enacted the closest thing in America to gay marriage. The results reflected the deep split in Vermont over the law.

``I voted the straight Democratic ticket, primarily because I’m in favor of civil unions and the Republican Party is on a kick about trying to turn it back,″ said Ed O’Neil, a builder from Newfane.

One of the chief authors of the bill, House Judiciary Committee chairman Thomas Little, a Republican, beat back a challenge.

Granting marriage benefits to gay couples ``is probably something that’s going to take a generation to resolve,″ Little said.

Two of the biggest casualties among the law’s supporters were Marion Milne, who represents six conservative towns, and John Edwards, who serves on the Judiciary Committee and represents a couple of small towns on the Canadian border. Both had been targeted by opponents of civil unions.

Milne said that she knew when she cast her vote that it might lead to her defeat but that she did the right thing.

Altogether, more than a dozen Statehouse primary races were expected to turn almost exclusively on a legislator’s vote for or against civil unions. Most of those races involved GOP incumbents who backed the law.

Signs imploring voters to ``Take Back Vermont″ by ousting those who voted for civil unions have dotted the Vermont landscape.

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