It’s true what they say, that life itself is often more thrilling than the best Hollywood thriller, and what happened in the state of Vermont in 1999 proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt. That was the year that a small group of dedicated and brave people challenged state law and fought passionately for the legalization of gay marriage.
In his fascinating page-turner of a book, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Moats, who was the editorial page editor of the Rutland Herald, found himself in the thick of things as a literal war raged around him. The war was being fought between a handful of gay and lesbian couples who wanted to enjoy all the rights of real marriage and their legal and legislative allies, and a cadre of vicious homophobic enemies who called themselves good Christians, yet acted more like demons – enemies driven by hatred, ignorance and fear.
Using all the great writing techniques of the best fiction thriller, Moats presents the key characters in the battle on both sides, including the key figure and ultimate hero, openly gay legislature Bill Lippert; psychotherapist Stan Baker, whose name became attached to the landmark legal case; powerhouse lawyer Beth Robinson, who fought like a warrior for gay marriage; Governor Howard Dean, who walked a fine line between supporters and opponents, and found his middle ground; and the mean and hostile opposition to the bill, led by the downright evil Randall Terry, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, presidential candidate Gary Bauer and a slew of fundamentalist Christians who saw no contradiction between their supposed love of Christ and their vicious, often borderline violent attacks on gays and supporters of gay rights.
The fight that ensued would cover town hall meetings that threatened to erupt into violence, legislative hallways where the “God Squad” tried to intimidate anyone who believed in civil rights, and eventually end up in the courts themselves, where justices struggled to embrace this newest interpretation of constitutional law. Along the way, the original couples who only wanted to express their love and devotion, and their allies and supporters, would become targets of vandalism and hate unlike anything Vermonters had experienced before, turning the state into a virtual battleground between civil rights warriors and right wing hate-mongers determined to keep gays from enjoying equality.
In the end, the choice would be a positive one, but not the ultimate outcome hoped for. What happened in Vermont in the span of two years would reverberate throughout the nation, triggering similar legal battles in other states, including Massachusetts. Because of a handful of truly courageous souls, including Lippert, Robinson and the couples who started it all, the state of Vermont broke through another civil rights glass ceiling. The story of these people, what they suffered and what they achieved, is as powerful and amazing as anything Hollywood has done in the last ten years.
In fact, if some major motion picture studio doesn’t snap up the rights to this heroic tale of struggle and victory against overwhelming odds, I’ll eat my shirt and I’ll do it on the Web for all to see. This is an epic story that really happened; a harrowing, yet ultimately inspiring tale of just how much is possible when people truly believe in, and fight for, their basic right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.