(CNSNews.com) - Vice President Al Gore Tuesday applauded the Vermont State Supreme Court ruling on benefits and protections for same sex couples.
In a statement released from his Washington office, Gore said, " I applaud the non-discrimination and equality principles inherent in Vermont's State Supreme Court ruling that same sex couples must be given the same benefits and protections as different sex couples. The court's decision rests upon the "constitutional imperative to afford all Vermonters the common benefit, protection and security of the law."
Gore went on to say, " I am not for changing the institute of marriage as we have traditionally understood it. But I am for legal protections for domestic partnerships."
The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (LLDEF) praised the Vermont Supreme Court decision.
"This is a glorious day. Vermont's highest court has ordered an end to unequal treatment of lesbian and gay families," said Evan Wolfson, Lamda Marriage Project Director.
Kevin Cathcart, Lambda Executive Director said, "Americans are recognizing that it is time to end this discrimination, which harms so many families. While it can take long court battles to secure basic civil rights, we have no doubt this ruling ensures that our families will see justice."
Lambda Legal Director Beatrice Dohrn thinks the court ruling will initiate lifestyle improvements for lesbian and gay families in America.
"This opinion contains the unprecedented acknowledgment that the government has as great an interest in protecting gay couples as it does for non-gay couples. This decision marks the start of a tremendous sea change that will surely improve life for lesbian and gay families," said Dohrn.
"This decision is not only troubling, but it is tremendously disappointing," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative public interest law firm. "This is the first court in the country that has mandated same-sex marriage. And while this legal decision is designed to elevate the status of same-sex couples, it really represents a slap in the face for marriage between a man and a woman."
Sekulow added, "The decision is likely to result in constitutional confusion at the federal level because the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton, allows states to not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The issue in Vermont goes to the legislature and it is our hope that they will protect the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman by not authorizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples."
The court decision now places the same sex issue before the Vermont Legislature, which convenes next month for its 2000 session.
Governor Howard Dean (D-VT) predicts the Legislature will pass a domestic partners law rather than making marriage legal for same sex couples. Of same sex marriage, Dean said, "it makes me uncomfortable, the same as anybody else."
Vermont's Lieutenant Governor Douglas Racine and the state's House Speaker Michael Obuchowski, say they are in favor of same sex marriages.
The court ruling stemmed from a lawsuit that filed in 1997 by three couples, two lesbian and one gay after they were denied marriage licenses by their local town clerks. The clerks said they were acting on the advice of Vermont's Attorney General, who cited a 1975 court opinion calling same sex marriages unconstitutional.