LGBT rights in Vermont
Map of USA VT.svg
StatusLegal since 1977
(Legislative repeal)
Gender identityTransgender persons allowed to change gender without surgery
Discrimination protectionsProtections for both sexual orientation and gender identity
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2009
AdoptionBoth joint and stepchild adoption

The establishment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the U.S. state of Vermont is a recent occurrence, with most progress having taken place in the late 20th and the early 21st centuries. Vermont was one of 37 U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia, that issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges, establishing equal marriage rights for same-sex couples nationwide.

Moreover, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. In terms of criminal justice, the use of conversion therapy on minors is legally banned since 2016 and since 2021 the common-law "gay and/or trans panic defence" was abolished and repealed.[1] Vermont is often regarded as one of the most LGBT-friendly states in the country. It was the first state to legally recognize same-sex unions, when it established civil unions for same-sex couples in 2000. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2009, with opinion polls showing large popular support.[2]

History and legality of same-sex sexual activity

In 1782, a statute was passed recognizing common law crimes including the "buggery" law. In 1861, Vermont reduced the penalty for sodomy from capital punishment to life imprisonment. In the 1899 case of State v. LaForrest, the Vermont Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that the common law statute made sodomy a criminal offense. The court stated that the punishment, whether fines or imprisonment, would be entirely up to the discretion of the trial court.[3]

Vermont never enacted a specific sodomy statute, leaving the penalty and the definition of what constituted the act to the trial court or jury. However, in 1937, the state passed a law forbidding oral sex, reading: [a]ny person participating in the act of copulating the mouth of one person with the sexual organ of another shall be imprisoned in the state prison not less than one year nor more than five years." The law applied to both heterosexual and homosexual activity. In 1943, Vermont enacted a psychopathic offender law, under which those imprisoned for "gross immorality conduct" would remain in prison until they were no longer "considered dangerous to public welfare." The law was repealed in 1968.[3]

The oral sex statute was repealed in April 1977. The common law reception statute technically remains in force, but ruling in Lawrence v. Texas the U.S. Supreme Court held that criminal laws against adult, private, consensual and noncommercial sodomy were unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.[4][5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Main article: Same-sex marriage in Vermont

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Vermont since September 1, 2009.[6] It was the first state in which same-sex marriage became legal through the action of the legislature and governor rather than as a result of a court decision.[7]

In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the state must provide equal marriage benefits to same-sex couples, whether in the form of marriage or an equivalent. As a result, Vermont introduced civil unions in July 2000, the first state to provide a status identical to marriage.[8] Legislators in favor of civil unions received particularly high amounts of "threats, intimidation and vile language", mostly from out-of-state, and especially directed at Governor Howard Dean and openly gay legislator Bill Lippert.[9]

Vermont has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 1994.[10]

Adoption and parenting

Vermont law permits single LGBT individuals and same-sex couples to petition to adopt.[11] In addition, lesbian couples have access to in vitro fertilization, and state law recognizes the non-genetic, non-gestational mother as a legal parent to a child born via donor insemination, irrespective of the marital status of the parents.[12]

Surrogacy is neither expressly prohibited nor permitted in Vermont. However, courts are generally favorable to surrogacy, which means both the surrogate and the intended parents, including same-sex couples, can pursue a surrogacy arrangement in the state.[13]

In June 1993, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in favor of a lesbian woman who sought to adopt her partner's two biological sons.[14]

Discrimination protections

Vermont law bans discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, education, housing, credit, insurance and union practices.[15]

The discrimination protections based on sexual orientation were added in 1992.[16] In 2006, the Vermont General Assembly passed a bill adding gender identity to the state's non-discrimination law, but it was vetoed by Governor Jim Douglas on May 17, 2006.[17] It was passed again in 2007 with a large majority, and was then signed into law by Governor Douglas on May 22, 2007. It took effect on July 1, 2007.[18][19]

Moreover, the state's anti-bullying law prohibits bullying on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. The law also explicitly includes cyberbullying and harassment, and applies to all educational institutions in the state.[20]

Criminal justice

Hate crime law

Vermont enacted hate crime legislation in 1990, one of the first states to do so, that included sexual orientation. Most of the testimony and statistics that supported its passage related to the gay and lesbian community and one incident of anti-gay violence helped secure its passage.[21] Gender identity was added in 1999.[22][23] The law provides additional penalties for a crime committed based on the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity, among other categories.

Gay or trans panic defense

In January 2021, legislation to repeal the gay and trans panic defense was introduced to the Vermont General Assembly with 26 co-sponsors.[24] In March 2021, the Vermont House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 144–1.[25] The Vermont Senate unanimously, by 29 votes to 0, passed the bill in April 2021 with some amendments.[26][27] The amended bill was approved by the House a few days later. On the 5th May, 2021 Governor Phil Scott signed the bill into law - legally effective since July 1.[28][29][30][31]

Conversion therapy

See also: List of U.S. jurisdictions banning conversion therapy

On March 17, 2016, the Vermont Senate unanimously approved a bill banning the use of conversion therapy on LGBT minors.[32][33] On April 26, the Vermont House of Representatives approved the bill with amendments. The Senate accepted the amended version on April 29.[34] Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law on May 25, and it took effect on July 1, 2016.[35]

Transgender rights

Vermont permits both preoperative and post-operative transgender individuals to change the gender marker on their birth certificates and other state-issued documents. The Vermont Department of Health will issue new documentation upon receipt of a court order. Sufficient evidence for a court order include a letter from a licensed practitioner of medicine or mental health professional that the applicant has undergone "surgical, hormonal, or other treatment appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition". As of 2013, all health insurers that underwrite policies in Vermont are required to cover transgender care, including sex reassignment surgery.[36]

Effective from July 1, 2022 individuals born within Vermont can legally change their sex marker on a birth certificate to "male, female or X" - based on self determination (without any court order, mental health diagnosis, sexual reassignment surgery, divorce and/or even a medical practitioner's permission). The bill passed the Vermont General Assembly and was signed into law by the Governor of Vermont Phil Scott in April 2022.[37][38]

Since July 1, 2018, Vermont has required all single-user public bathrooms to be marked as gender-neutral, after Governor Phil Scott signed a bill to this effect into law in May 2018.[39][40]

Since July 1, 2019, the Department of Motor Vehicles has offered a third gender option on driver's licences, known as "X".[41] No documentation is needed to update the gender marker on a driver's license or a state ID.

Public opinion

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 80% of Vermont residents supported same-sex marriage, while 16% were opposed and 4% were unsure.[2] This was the highest level of support in the United States, tied with Massachusetts.

Public opinion for LGBT anti-discrimination laws in Vermont
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
% support % opposition % no opinion
Public Religion Research Institute January 2-December 30, 2019 135 ? 71% 16% 13%
Public Religion Research Institute January 3-December 30, 2018 179 ? 77% 17% 6%
Public Religion Research Institute April 5-December 23, 2017 212 ? 79% 15% 6%
Public Religion Research Institute April 29, 2015-January 7, 2016 220 ? 76% 16% 8%

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal
(Since 1977)
Equal age of consent
(Since 1977)
Anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation
(Since 1992)
Anti-discrimination laws for gender identity
(Since 2007)
Same-sex marriages
(Since 2009)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil union)
(Since 2000; the first US state to do so)
Stepchild and joint adoption by same-sex couples
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people allowed to serve openly in the military
(Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military
(Since 2021)[42]
Intersex people allowed to serve openly in the military
(Current DoD policy bans "hermaphrodites" from serving or enlisting in the military)[43]
Right to change legal gender and gender X optional
(From July 2022 no longer requires a court order for changing sex on birth certificates; Gender X available for drivers licences since 2019 and from July 2022 for birth certificates)[37]
Access to IVF for lesbian couples
Gender-neutral bathrooms
Conversion therapy banned on minors
(Since 2016)
Gay and/or trans panic defence abolished
(Since 2021)[28][44]
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures
Surrogacy access for gay male couples
MSMs allowed to donate blood
(Since 2020; 3-month deferral period)[45]

See also


  1. ^ "Vermont outlaws notorious 'gay panic' defense". May 6, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Consulting, Epicenter. "PRRI – American Values Atlas".
  3. ^ a b "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States - Vermont".
  4. ^ William N. Eskridge, Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 (NY: Penguin Group, 2008), 201n, available online, accessed October 10, 2010
  5. ^ Vermont Sodomy Law Archived 2012-03-11 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Vermont Public Radio: "Same-sex couple ties the knot at midnight," September 1, 2009, accessed May 9, 2011
  7. ^ "D.C. vote puts gay marriage before Congress". Boston Globe. April 9, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  8. ^ Higgins, Richard (July 2, 2000). "Vermont Licenses First Civil Unions". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on April 9, 2016. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  9. ^ Moats, David (February 12, 2021). "Moats: Extreme hate is nothing new". VTDigger.
  10. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees", accessed April 16, 2011
  11. ^ Vermont Adoption Law Archived 2012-07-25 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Vermont's equality profile". Movement Advancement Project.
  13. ^ "What You Need to Know About Surrogacy in Vermont". American Surrogacy.
  14. ^ "Lesbian Wins Appeal on Vermont Adoption". New York Times. June 20, 1993. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  15. ^ Vermont Non-Discrimination Law Archived 2012-03-11 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "The Vermont Legislative Bill Tracking System".
  17. ^ "Gov. Douglas vetoes gender discrimination bill". Archived from the original on March 28, 2016. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  18. ^ "Vermont Adds Gender Identity to Anti-Discrimination Law". Archived from the original on March 31, 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  19. ^ BuzzFlash. "Vermont Governor Signs Non-Discrimination Bill Into Law".
  20. ^ Vermont Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies
  21. ^ Mary Bernsten, "The Contradictions of Gay Ethnicity: Forging Identity in Vermont," in David S. Meyer, et al., eds, Social Movements: Identity, Culture, and the State (Oxford University Press, 2002), 96-7, available online, accessed July 12, 2013
  22. ^ Wallace Swan, ed., Handbook of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Administration and Policy (Taylor & Francis, 2005), 131, available online, accessed July 12, 2013
  24. ^ "VT H0128". LegiScan.
  25. ^ Norton, Kit (March 12, 2021). "Final Reading: Accusations of bigotry mark passage of a huamn rights bill". VTDigger.
  26. ^ Norton, Kit (April 21, 2021). "Senate unanimously approves ban on LGBTQ 'panic' defense". VTDigger.
  27. ^ Milton, Josh (April 22, 2021). "Vermont to become 13th US state to ban 'senseless' gay and trans panic defences. Only 37 more to go". PinkNews.
  28. ^ a b "News | Vermont Business Magazine".
  29. ^ "'Panic defense' bill awaits governor's signature". WCAX. Montpelier. April 28, 2021.
  30. ^ "Vermont's GOP Governor Signs Bipartisan Legislation to Ban Gay and Trans 'Panic' Defense". May 5, 2021.
  31. ^ "Vermont becomes 13th state to officially ban evil gay and trans panic defences". May 7, 2021.
  32. ^ "Bills Seeking To Ban 'Ex-Gay' Therapy To Minors Advance In Colorado, Vermont".
  33. ^ "Vermont legislature moving towards banning conversion therapy". Metro Weekly. March 17, 2016.
  34. ^ S.132
  35. ^ "Gov. Shumlin signs law banning conversion therapy in Vermont". May 25, 2016.
  36. ^ Vermont Birth Certificate Law: Gender Identity Issues Archived 2012-07-25 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ a b Mearhoff, Sarah (April 6, 2022). "Scott signs bill allowing Vermonters to amend their birth certificates to reflect gender identity". VTdigger.
  38. ^ "Bill Status H.628 (Act 88)". Vermont Legislature. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  39. ^ Mosbergen, Dominique (May 14, 2018). "Vermont Lawmakers Pass Gender-Neutral Bathroom Bill To 'Send Powerful Message'". Huffington Post.
  40. ^ Croffie, Kwegyirba (May 14, 2018). "Vermont passes gender-neutral bathroom bill". CNN.
  41. ^ French, Ellie (March 12, 2019). "State ready to roll out 'X' gender option on new licenses". VTDigger.
  42. ^ Baldor, Lolita; Miller, Zeke (January 25, 2021). "Biden reverses Trump ban on transgender people in military". Associated Press.
  43. ^ "Medical Conditions That Can Keep You From Joining the Military". May 10, 2021.
  44. ^ "H.128 - An act relating to limiting criminal defenses based on victim identity". Vermont General Assembly.
  45. ^ McNamara, Audrey (April 2, 2020). "FDA eases blood donation requirements for gay men amid "urgent" shortage". CBS News.