Vermont has now become the fourth American state which legally allows same-sex marriages, and the first to pass the law through a legislative process.

While a bill legalising same-sex marriage was passed by the state’s Senate on Monday, Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the law. Lawmakers in turn managed yesterday to narrowly garner enough votes – 100 to 49 – to overturn the veto. The Vermont law goes into effect on September 1.

Senate President Peter Shumlin said in a statement: “Today Vermont legislators did the right thing by overriding Governor Douglas’ veto and granting equal rights to all Vermonters.

“The struggle for equal rights is never easy. I was proud to be President of the Senate nine years ago when Vermont led the country by creating civil unions. Today is another historic day for Vermont and I have never felt more proud as we become the first state in the country to enact marriage equality not as the result of a court order, but because it is the right thing to do.”

Gov. Douglas attempted to justify his vetoing of the legislature by putting the blame on the federal defence of marriage law, claiming that the legislation doesn’t provide any additional benefits that aren’t already available under Vermont’s civil union law.

“This legislation does not address the inequalities espoused by proponents,” his statement said. “Regardless of whether the term marriage is applied, federal benefits will still be denied to same sex couples in Vermont.”

The Human Right Campaign welcomed the Senate’s vote: “This is a law that will strengthen families and give meaning to the promise of equal rights for all,” said its president Joe Solmonese.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa have already extended marriage equality to lesbian and gay couples, while New York recognises marriages by lesbian and gay couples legally entered into in another jurisdiction.

On Tuesday it was also announced that the Washington City Council agreed to recognise civil unions, domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. A final Council vote on the legislation is expected May 5. The bills would then be sent to Mayor Adrian Fenty and, if approved, would be sent to Congress for a 30 legislative day review period.

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