I have often been critical of Vermonters’ exaggerated perception of their own inherent virtue. We’re far from perfect on race relations; there are subtle forms of sexism here that I haven’t seen elsewhere; and, of course, our vaunted reputation for environmentalism is largely due to forces out of our control: small population, not much industry, and lack of exploitable resources. Based on how we’ve handled Lake Champlain, or the damage done when we HAVE had the opportunity to do so (the Elizabeth Mine, the PFOA contamination around Bennington), I contend that if there was a lot of coal under the Green Mountains, we’d be West Virginia North.
But while I contend that Vermont isn’t as special as we think it is, I readily acknowledge that it definitely has its virtues. We have two examples from recent headlines, where other states are pursuing destructive, hateful paths while we quietly handle our business in a positive manner.
Example #1: the Vermont House passes — with broad
bipartisan tripartisan support — a bill that would guarantee women’s access to contraception even if that section of Obamacare is repealed.
Example #2: The Agency of Education issues guidelines for supporting transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
The latter comes at a time when North Carolina and Kansas have adopted so-called “bathroom bills” that would force trans people to use public restrooms appropriate to their birth gender, not their true identity. The Kansas law actually establishes a $2,500 bounty for catching people in the “wrong” bathroom. Yeah, like high school bullies need any encouragement.
Like a trans man with a flat chest, short hair and a beard can safely use a women’s room. Like a trans woman wearing makeup, heels and a dress can safely use the men’s room.
And like there has ever been an actual case of a trans person committing sexual assault in the “wrong” bathroom.
But I digress. The point is, while other states rush headlong to force trans people back into the closet or into dangerous situations, Vermont is taking positive steps to accommodate gender nonconformists and prevent harassment.
State officials said increasing numbers of educators are coming to them with questions about their transgender students.
“Rather than give piecemeal advice to direct questions, the Agency felt a better approach would be to give schools a framework to address various issues as they come up,” agency spokeswoman Haley Dover said in a written statement.
It may seem at times like this blogger’s heart is black and cold, but I have to say, seeing this story on the front page of Monday’s Times Argus just gave me a nice warm feeling inside. Here’s our government trying to protect minority rights, and you don’t hear some jackass lawmaker yammering about defunding the agency.
Now, back to contraceptives. On the very day that the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative members showed themselves to be utterly ignorant on the reality of women’s lives, the Vermont House voted 128 to 15* — no, that’s not a typo — to preserve access to contraception in case the Affordable Care Act is repealed. The bill’s sponsor is one of the bright young stars of the legislature, Rep. Ruqayiah Morris of Bennington.
Morris told her House colleagues that half of the babies born in Vermont are from unintended pregnancies. The percentage is 74 percent for women on Medicaid. Why? “It generally comes down to access,” Morris said.
In the grand scheme of things, this may never make a bit of difference. With the Republican presidential race looking more and more like a dumpster fire every day, the odds of a repeal grow ever smaller. But it’s a nice insurance policy and a reminder that Vermont stands for women’s reproductive rights. Even a solid majority of the Republican caucus.
Yep, Vermont is a special place. Not quite as special as many of us want to believe, but special nonetheless.
We’re not all on the same page, of course. When my eye wandered down to the Comments section of the contraception article, my blogger’s black heart got an eyeful of this:
If people don’t want unintended pregnancies then they should not have sex or buy their own contraception.. If they can afford beer, cigarettes, have their nails done every week, hair extensions and top of the line cell phones and monthly charges which usually run over $100.then they can pay for their own contraception’s.
Oh yeah, we’ve got our share of ignorant bigots. The difference is, in Vermont they have no clout in the halls of power. For that, I am truly thankful.
Postscript. A regular correspondent requested that I name the Filthy Fifteen — the Republican dead-enders who voted “No” on the contraceptive bill. Anyone who follows the Legislature will not be surprised by most of the names:
Steve Beyor, Larry Cupoli, Paul Dame, Eileen Dickinson, Anne Donahue, Marianna Gamache, Rodney Graham, Mike Hebert, Bob Helm, Marcia Martel, Mary Morrissey, Vicki Strong, Tom Terenzini, Warren Van Wyck, and Janssen Willhoit.