Gay Marriage Gets A Boost

In their minds, thousands of gay couples feel like their married. But while they may feel obligated to each other, no state authority has ever felt obligated to recognize same-sex unions. On Monday, CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports, the Vermont Supreme Court decided same-sex couples deserve legal protection.

"I look forward to Peter and myself having the same kind of relationship that my parents did," said gay rights activist Stan Baker, who was standing next to his domestic partner.

The court stopped short of legalizing gay marriage. Justices ordered the legislature to find a way to make sure committed same-sex couples have the same rights to health benefits and legal rights as married heterosexuals.

"It's a substantive, important legal victory that says the gay people and our families are entitled to full and equal protection under the law," said gay rights activist Evan Wolfson.

Conservative groups jumped to criticize the decision. The Family Research Council said the court is "playing with fire."

"They did something very wrong, which was to impose marital-type benefits on non-marital relationships. That undermines the authority of marriage. It undermines its importance in society," said Robert Knight of the council.

Even though the court did not legalize same-sex marriage, it went farther than any other state has. And some gay activists in Vermont sound like they're already planning the weddings.

"We bring to marriage, all of us, passion, commitment, equality and love and that's something that will only strengthen marriage," said gay activist Baker.

Vermont legislators are now expected to pass so-called domestic partner measures. Gay people could get all the legal benefits of marriage except the official recognition and symbolism that comes from saying I do.

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