Vermont LGBT Laws

Children: Access, Custody, Visitation Legislation/Cases/References
1. Courts & Tribunals

On 29 October 2010, the Vermont Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision affirming a trial court’s 2009 order giving Janet Jenkins sole physical and legal custody of her daughter Isabella Miller-Jenkins [C1.1], [R1.1].


On 23 February 2010, Judge William Cohen found Lisa Miller of Forest, Virginia, in contempt of court and issued the arrest warrant during a brief hearing in Rutland County family court. The arrest order applies only in Vermont [R1.2].

On 17 February 2010, a judge in Bedford County, Virginia, decided not to press charges against Lisa Miller, saying the woman couldn’t be held in contempt of court because she was never notified of the pending charges – for the reason that no one knows where she, or 7-year-old Isabella, is [R1.3].

In December 2009, family court Judge William Cohen ordered the biological mother of a seven-year-old Vermont girl be handed over to her former partner, the mother being in contempt of court for denying access to the child [R1.4].

On 01 January 2010, the biological mother ordered to hand over custody of her child to her lesbian ex-partner could be charged with parental abduction for failing to comply with a court order [R1.5].

On 20 November 2009, family court Judge William Cohen issued a 21-page decision granting custody to the non-biological mother of a 7-year-old girl as the result of a child visitation lawsuit between a former lesbian couple [R1.6].

In June 2008, the Virginia supreme court ruled that the state must enforce a Vermont court order awarding child visitation rights to a mother’s lesbian former partner [R1.7].

C1.1 Vermont Supreme Court: Lisa Miller-Jenkins v. Janet Miller-Jenkins PDF 930.28kb, 29 OCT 10
R1.1 GLAD: Vermont Supreme Court Again Affirms Custody for Janet Jenkins 01 NOV 10
R1.2 The Washington Post: Arrest ordered in Vermont same-sex parent custody case 23 FEB 10
R1.3 The Advocate: No Charges in Lesbian Custody Case 18 FEB 10
R1.4 Birth mother ordered to hand over child to lesbian ex-partner 30 DEC 09
R1.5 Woman fails to hand child to lesbian ex-partner 04 JAN 10
R1.6 The Advocate: Lesbian Granted Custody Over “Ex-Gay” Ex 25 NOV 09
R1.7 The Advocate: Court: Vermont Ruling Stands in Lesbian Custody Case 07-09 JUN 08
Civil Unions, Partners: Domestic, Registered Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

From July 2000, registered same-sex partners are entitled to most or all the rights of marriage. Gov. Howard Dean signed the first-in-the-nation law in April 2000 [R1.1].

Vermont state law requires at least one party be a Vermont resident before the family courts in Vermont will rule on a dissolution [R1.2].

Obtaining a dissolution outside of Vermont may not be possible [R1.3].


In March 2000, the bill to create “civil unions” giving gay and lesbian couples virtually all the benefits of marriage cleared its most critical legislative hurdle and gained final approval in the Vermont House of Representatives, setting the stage for the state to adopt the most sweeping set of rights for same-sex couples in the country [R1.4]. In April 2000, by nearly a 2-1 vote, the Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval [R1.5].

See also: The Vermont Guide to Civil Unions

In July 2003, in changes to state rules regarding eligibility for Medicaid-funded nursing home, the Douglas administration found a way to provide certain the benefits to same-sex couples without running afoul of the federal law limiting marriage to members of the opposite sex [R1.6].

The changes, in essence, boil down to the word “spouse.” In all instances where federal law talks of “married,” “husband,” “wife” and “widow,” the new state rules refer to spouse. With respect to all health care eligibility determinations for Medicaid, including long-term care, parties to a civil union will be treated as spouses.

The changes mean that Vermont will provide the benefits to civil union partners without the use of federal money [R1.6].

2. Courts & Tribunals

In November 2000, superior court Judge Matthew Katz dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state’s civil unions law, brought by a group of four taxpayers, 11 lawmakers, and three town clerks who challenged the law on a variety of fronts, on the ground that none of the plaintiffs has the legal standing to bring the case [R2.1].

In December 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples should be afforded the same legal benefits as married couples. But the court threw the difficult task of deciding how to accomplish that goal over to the Legislature. In a 4-1 ruling written by Chief Justice Jeffrey Amestoy, the court said it would be up to the Legislature to decide whether same-sex couples should be covered under the traditional marriage laws or through a “parallel ‘domestic partnership’ system or an equivalent statutory alternative” [R2.2].

3. Institutions

In September 2000, the University of Vermont was giving its gay employees until the end of 2001 to enter a civil union with their partners or they will no longer receive domestic-partner benefits [R3.1].

R1.1 Associated Press: Vermont Governor Signs Gay Union Bill 26 APR 00
R1.2 Associated Press: Connecticut Doesn’t Recognize Civil Union 25 JUL 02
R1.3 Sious City Journal: Divorce Granted to Lesbian Couple Doesn’t Mean Iowa Accepts Union 06 DEC 03
Associated Press: Houston Judge Dismisses Gay Divorce Case 02 APR 03
Boston Globe: Civil Unions in Vermont Easier to Enter Than Exit 15 NOV 02
R1.4 New York Times: Vermont House Passes Bill on Rights for Gay Couples 17 MAR 00
R1.5 Rutland Herald: Vermont Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill 19 APR 00
R1.6 The Times Argus: Administration Shifts Civil Union Medicaid Stance 11 JUL 03
R2.1 The Advocate: Lawsuit Challenging Vermont Civil Unions Law Dismissed 14 NOV 00
R2.2 Rutland Herald: Supreme Court Affirms Rights of Same-Sex Couples 21 DEC 99
R3.1 Associated Press: University of Vermont Links Benefits to Unions 27 SEP 00
Discrimination Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

In 2001, Vermont state law was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public and private employment [R1.1] and in 2007 gender identity was added [R1.2].

R1.1 Bloomington Herald-Times: State Adds Gays to Policy on Job Discrimination 07 AUG 01
R1.2 ILGA: State-Sponsored Homophobia PDF 382.87kb, MAY 08
Estates, Inheritance, Property, Succession, Wills Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

In June 2008, a legal opinion prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel stated that “Although DOMA limits the definition of ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse’ for purposes of federal law, the Social Security Act does not condition eligibility for [benefits] on the existence of a marriage or on the federal rights of a spouse in the circumstances of this case; rather, eligibility turns upon the State’s recognition of a parent-child relationship, and specifically, the right to inherit as a child under state law” [R1.1].

R1.1 The Advocate: Vermont Child Eligible for Nonbio Mom’s Benefits 08 JUL 08
The Advocate: Department of Justice OK’s Benefits for Kids of Same-Sex Couples 19 JUN 08
Gender Identity, Intersex,
Transgender, Transexual
1. State

On 11 May 2018, Governor Phil Scott signed Bill H333 into law after the legislature finally unanimously passed in the Senate.The Bill will require all single-user bathrooms in public buildings or places of public accommodation to be marked as gender-neutral. The bill passed with a large majority in the House in April 2017. The law will go into effect on 01 July. It does not apply to bathrooms with more than one toilet [R1.6].

On 21 April 2017, the House approved 123-19 bill H333 that requires all single-occupancy public bathrooms be open to everybody and not be restricted by gender. The bill is unlikely to be voted on by the full Senate this year [R1.5].

On 22 April 2013, the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation issued Insurance Bulletin No 174 making it mandatory for health insurance providers to cover the cost of procedures for transgender people, including, gender-reassignment surgery [D1.4], [R1.3].

In 2007, gender identity was added to state law prohibiting discrimination in public and private employment [R1.2].

In 2001, Vermont state law was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public and private employment [R1.1].

R1.6 CNN: Vermont passes gender-neutral bathroom bill 13 MAY 18
R1.5 ValleyNews: Vermont House OKs Bathroom Bill 21 APR 17
D1.4 Insurance Bulletin No. 174: Guidance Regarding Prohibited Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity … 22 APR 13
R1.3 SFGN: Insurers in Vermont Will Now Cover Gender Reassignment Surgery 30 APR 13
R1.2 ILGA: State-Sponsored Homophobia PDF 382.87kb, MAY 08
R1.1 Bloomington Herald-Times: State Adds Gays to Policy on Job Discrimination 07 AUG 01
Hate Crimes Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

In 1990, the law in Vermont made hate crimes based on sexual orientation considered an aggravating circumstance [R1.1] and in 1999 hate crimes based on gender identity were also considered an aggravating curcumstance [R1.1].

R1 ILGA: State-Sponsored Homophobia PDF 382.87kb, MAY 08
Health, Medical Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

On 25 May 2016, Governor Peter Shumlin signed Senate Bill 132 into law banning ”gay conversion” therapy on anyone under 18 years of age, a therapy intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The law comes into effect on 01 July 2016 [R1.5].

On 22 April 2013, the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation issued Insurance Bulletin No 174 making it mandatory for health insurance providers to cover the cost of procedures for transgender people, including, gender-reassignment surgery [D1.4], [R1.3].

On 15 March 2013, the House voted 139–5 in favour of Bill H. 315 (An act relating to group health coverage for same-sex spouses) to require out-of-state companies that offer health coverage to the spouses of opposite-sex married couples to provide the same benefits to same-sex couples [L1.2], [R1.1].

R1.5 Governor Peter Shumlin: Governor Shumlin Signs Law to Ban Conversion Therapy in Vermont 25 MAY 16
D1.4 Insurance Bulletin No. 174: Guidance Regarding Prohibited Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity … 22 APR 13
R1.3 SFGN: Insurers in Vermont Will Now Cover Gender Reassignment Surgery 30 APR 13
L1.2 Vermont Legislature: H.315 PDF 8.2kb
R1.1 The Berkshire Eagle: Vermont House passes same-sex health coverage bill 18 MAR 13
Marriage Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

On 07 April 2009, the Vermont legislature overrode the Governor’s veto to approve a Bill that will enable same-sex couples to marry as of 01 September 2009 [R1.1]. Vermont is the fifth state to make marriage lawful after New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa [R1.2].


In March 2009, the Vermont Senate voted 26 – 4 to approve same-sex marriage. The Bill went to the House of Representatives and was expected to pass [R1.3].

On 26 April 2000, the Vermont legislature approved a Bill creating “civil unions” which was signed by Governor Howard Dean [R1.4].

The law will allow gay couples (including non-residents) to form civil unions beginning 1 July 2000.

It was unclear whether Vermont law will recognise Massachusetts same-sex marriages [R1.5].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 20 December 1999, the judgment of the superior court upholding the constitutionality of the Vermont marriage statutes under Chapter I, Article 7 of the Vermont Constitution was reversed and suspended to permit the Legislature to consider and enact legislation consistent with the constitution [C2.1].

R1.1 Now There Are Four: Vermont Legislature Overrides Veto, Legalizes Gay Marriage 07 APR 09 Vermont gay marriage bill passes through House 03 APR 09
R1.2 Gay marriage now legal in Vermont 01 SEP 09
R1.3 MCV: One Step Closer to Marriage Recognition 26 MAR 09
R1.4 Associated Press: Vermont Governor Signs Gay Union Bill 26 APR 00
R1.5 Associated Press: Sorrell: Court Cases Likely on Gay Marriage 17 MAY 04
C2.1 Supreme Court: Stan Baker et. al. v. State of Vermont et. al 20 DEC 99
Parenting, Adoption, Fostering Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

Second-parent adoption is lawful in Vermont [R1.1].

Same-sex couples who wish to become adoptive parents may apply to the agency of Social and Rehabilitation Services [R1.2].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 01 December 2017, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled 4-1 that an individual who is not biologically related to a child, has not legally adopted the child, and is not married to the child’s legal parent may be the child’s legal parent [C2.2], [R2.1].

R1.1 Chicago Tribune: Same-Sex and Parents Too 23 JUN 02
R1.2 The Champlain Channel: Vermont Seeks Gay Couples To Adopt Children 11 JUN 03
C2.2 Opinion: Sarah Sinnott v. Jennifer Peck 2015-426 PDF 222.91kb 01 DEC 17
R2.1 WindyCityTimes: Vermont High Court Rules for Lesbian Mom 01 DEC 17
Violence: Bullying, Domestic Violence, Harassment, Vilification Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

On 02 June 2016, the Governor signed Bill S.154 into law strengthening legal protections for victims of stalking with effect from 01 July 2016. The new law makes illegal any course of conduct (including online activity) that would make a reasonable person fear for their safety, even if the individual acts involved aren’t criminal [L1.3], [R1.2].

From 1999, Vermonters who are harassed because they are different have had a new tool for defending themselves: A restraining order. Issued by a Superior Court judge and enforced by police, the orders require suspected tormentors to back off or face prosecution. Vermont laws against hate crimes enable the attorney general or the victims of hate-motivated incidents to seek restraining orders. The new law makes it a crime to violate the order, and on a first-time conviction, a person can receive a misdemeanor sentence of up to one year in jail and/or $2,000 in fines [R1.1].

L1.3 Bill: Bill as introduced and passed by Senate and House PDF 113.62kb 17 MAY 16
R1.2 RutlandHerald: Legislation expands stalking laws, adds rules for social media 16 JUN 16
R1.1 Associated Press: Tougher Hate Crimes Law Goes Into Effect 21 JUL 99