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Vermont House approves health care for same-sex spouses

Vermont's House of Representatives [official website] on Friday approved a bill [H315, PDF] that would require out-of-state employers to provide the same health care coverage to same-sex couples as employees with an opposite-sex spouse. The bill was approved [VPR report] almost unanimously in a 139-5 vote. Under the new bill, Vermont employees in a civil union or same-sex marriage working for an employer domiciled outside of the state would be entitled to the same health insurance coverage as hetero-sexual couples. While proponents of the bill applauded the result, opponents worried that the new bill would be subject to constitutional challenges under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. Supporters responded by stating that the language of the bill ensures federal law is not infringed by the state's new law. If the bill is also passed by the Senate, the new law will be effective on July 1. Vermont's legislature approved same-sex marriage [JURIST report] in 2009.

Issues surrounding same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] remain controversial throughout the US. Last week the Colorado House of Representative voted 39-26 in favor of a bill to legalize civil unions [JURIST report] which explicitly provides same-sex couples with benefits already enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, including dependent insurance coverage and the ability to adopt a partner's child. Later this month, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases related to same-sex marriage. In Hollingsworth v. Perry [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will examine the validity of Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive], a California referendum that revoked same-sex marriage rights. In United States v. Windsor [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will examine the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in nine US states and the District of Columbia. Last month the Illinois senate approved [JURIST report] same-sex marriage legislation. In January the Rhode Island House of Representatives approved a similar bill [JURIST report].

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