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Gay Rights March Set For DC

Gay rights advocates encouraged by the approval of Vermont's civil unions law predict that some 300,000 will join in Sunday's Millennium March on Washington.

The gay rights rally has been planned for years with the intention of mobilizing supporters into an important voting bloc this presidential election year.

Diane Hardy-Garcia, executive director of the Millennium March on Washington, says there's no better way to build on Wednesday's victory in Vermont. Millennium March on Washington events include a gay marriage blessing at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday and a concert featuring Melissa Etheridge and Garth Brooks.

The civil unions law, which goes into effect on July 1, gives gay couples most of the legal rights of marriage, including binding ceremonies to unite and separate, the right to inherit, and the right to make medical decisions for partners.

The some 300 legal benefits Vermont civil union couples will receive will not extend to federal benefits, such as social security. CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports that some opponents of civil unions nonetheless worry about the ripple effect of the Vermont law on other states.

"We have heard that some gay couples might travel to Vermont to enter into a civil union, then go back to their home states to try to change the laws there," says Richard Ziser, chairman of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage in Nevada.

State Of The Union
The National Picture:
  • In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, denying federal recognition of marriages between lesbian and gay couples and giving states the right to ignore same-sex marriages licensed in other states. President Clinton signed it into law.
  • Ziser says his group is well on its way to collecting the 44,009 signatures it needs to put a referendum on the ballot in Nevada in November asking voters to define marriage in the state constitution as a union only between a man and a woman.

    Ziser argues that Vermont's new status as the first state to provide anything comparable to gay marriage "really proves the necessity of what we are doing."

    Kathy Gillespie, executive director of The Center, a gay community organization in Las Vegas, says she hopes Vermont's move will "have a positive effect here in Nevada. My question to Mr. Ziser and his coalition is 'What is heir concern? Where is the risk? If my partner of 10 years is in an auto accident and needs a kidney transplant, why shouldn't I be able to sign the document providing for the transplant? Where is the risk if my partner is covered under my medical and dental plan?"

    On Vermont's eastern border, New Hampshire lawmakers are considering introducing a domestic partnership bill similar to Vermont's. The governor there, Jeanne Shaheen, has said that marriage should be defined as a union between a man and a woman. A spokeswoman for Shaheen says the governor has not read the Vermont law and has no opinion on it.

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