"It provides ... gay and lesbian couples the same rights that I have as a married heterosexual," said Sen. John Campbell, vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chief sponsor of the bill.
The measure would replace Vermont's first-in-the-nation civil unions law with one that allows marriage of same-sex partners beginning Sept. 1.
The committee's vote ended an intense week highlighted by a public hearing Wednesday night in which more than 500 people swarmed the Statehouse to speak for and against allowing same-sex marriages.
If approved, Vermont would join Massachusetts and Connecticut as the only U.S. states that allow gays and lesbians to marry.
Civil unions, which confer some rights similar to marriage, would still be recognized but no longer granted after Sept. 1. Both Houses, under Democratic control, are expected to pass the measure. The Senate is taking the lead and is expected to debate the bill next week. Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, has said he opposes the bill but has declined to say whether he will veto it if it reaches his desk.
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