The Vermont state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday to allow same-sex marriage, putting the state one step closer to becoming the first to approve same-sex marriage by legislative means.
The Democratic-dominated state Senate voted 26 to 4 in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. House Speaker Shap Smith, a Democrat, predicted to USA Today that a majority of the House would also vote in favor.
Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, has said he opposes the bill, but has not indicated whether he would veto the measure.
If the measure is approved, Vermont would become the third state (following neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut) to allow same-sex marriage. Vermont was the first state to grant civil unions in 2000.
If approved, the law would replace Vermont's civil-unions law starting September 1. Civil unions performed in the past nine years, however, would still be recognized, according to The New York Times.
Opponents say changing state laws to allow same-sex marriage is both unnecessary and morally questionable.
"Same-sex marriage in Vermont can offer only one benefit to Vermont's gay population: Hopes of increased social acceptance," said the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council. "All legal experts agree that civil unions already provide every legal benefit and protection Vermont can give."