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Guide to Vermont Civil Marriage


NOTE: "[T]he marriage equality law, effective September 1, 2009, discontinued the need for the separate status of "civil unions" in Vermont. Civil unions entered into prior to September 1, 2009 will continue to be recognized as civil unions. Couples currently in a civil union who want to be married will need to go through the new marriage process." - Vermont Department of Health


Questions and Answers to Help You Plan Your Civil Wedding


Who Will Be Permitted to Civilly Marry?
S.115 and the House Judiciary Committee amendment define Civil Marriage as "the legally recognized union of two people."1 To establish a Civil Marriage, the persons may not be related to one another, 2 must be at least 18 years of age, 3 and may not be already married to or in a Civil Union with a different person.4

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Will Couples Still Be Permitted to Establish Civil Unions?
No. When the act takes effect on September 1, 2009, same-sex couples will have access to the Civil Marriage laws, but may no longer establish a Civil Union.

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What Happens to Existing Civil Unions?
Civil Unions established before September 1, 2009 will continue to be recognized in Vermont.

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Can I Marry My Civil Union Partner?
Yes. Couples with existing Civil Unions will be permitted to marry one another. The Civil Marriage does not dissolve the Civil Union.

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What if either of us has been married or in a Civil Marriage before?
If your husband, wife, or Civil Marriage partner has died, you are free to form a Civil Marriage. The clerk will ask the date your spouse or Civil Marriage partner died. If you are divorced, you may form a Civil Marriage after the date on which your previous marriage or Civil Marriage was legally dissolved.

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Do we need a license? Do we need blood tests?
You will need a license, but you do not need blood tests, and there is no waiting period.

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Where do we get a license and how much does it cost?
Licenses are issued by Vermont town clerks. If both parties are Vermont residents, you may go to the town clerk in either of your towns of residence. If just one of you resides in a Vermont town, you must buy the license in that town. The license costs $45, and is valid for 60 days from the date it is issued. During that time period, an authorized person must perform your wedding ceremony — otherwise, the license is void.

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What information must we provide to get a license?
Besides basic information about yourselves (names, towns of residence, places and dates of birth), you must also provide your parents' names, including your mothers' maiden names, and their places of birth. (A certified copy of your birth certificate can supply most of this information.)

Vermont law requires that at least one of you sign the license in the presence of the town clerk, certifying that all the information you provided is correct. However, most town clerks prefer to see both of you in person before issuing your license. The law requires that town clerks satisfy themselves that you are both free to form a Civil Marriage under Vermont laws. Therefore, they may legally ask to see documented proof of your statements (birth certificates, divorce decrees, death certificates, etc.). You will also be asked to provide information about your race, the highest grade you completed in school, the number of previous marriages, and how they ended. This information is confidential and does not become part of the marriage certificate.

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Can a license be issued through the mail? Can we be form a Civil Marriage by proxy?
No. A Civil Marriage license cannot be issued through the mail, and you cannot form a Civil Marriage by proxy.

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What do we do with the license? What happens to it after the ceremony?
By law, you must deliver the license to the person who will marry you or certify your union (officiant). After the ceremony, the officiant will complete the sections concerning the date, place and officiant information, and sign your license. At that point, the license becomes a Civil Marriage certificate. The officiant must return the certificate to the town clerk's office where it was issued within 10 days of the certification, so that it can be officially registered. The certificate is not a complete legal document until it has been recorded in the town clerk's office where it was purchased.

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How do we get a copy of our marriage certificate?
At the time you buy your marriage license, you can arrange with the town clerk to mail you a certified copy of your certificate as soon as your marriage has been recorded. The cost is $10 for the certified copy along with the $45 for the license purchase ($10 + $45 = $55). Or, two weeks or more after the ceremony, you can request, in person or in writing, additional copies from the town clerk's office where you bought your license for the same $10 fee. Or, six or more weeks after your ceremony, you may request, in person or in writing, a certified copy from the Vermont Department of Health, Vital Records Unit for $10. In either case, you will receive a copy of the original certificate, embossed with the town or state seal, signed and dated by the appropriate official. This copy is accepted for all legal purposes as proof of a valid marriage.

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Where can we have our Civil Marriage certified?
With a valid Vermont license, you can have your Civil Marriage certified anywhere in Vermont, but only in Vermont.

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Must a Church Allow a Same-Sex Couple to Use Church Property for a Wedding Reception?
No. Religious organizations and their related nonprofit organizations are not required to provide services or facilities to any person if the purpose is related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage. A church may selectively provide such services to some individuals, while denying them to others, and the refusal shall not give rise to any civil claim or cause of action.6

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Who can certify our Civil Marriage? Do we need witnesses?
A supreme court justice, a superior court judge, a district judge, a judge of probate, an assistant judge, a justice of the peace or an ordained or licensed member of the clergy residing in Vermont can marry you or certify your Civil Marriage. A clergy person residing in an adjoining state or country can marry you or certify your Civil Marriage if his or her church, temple, mosque, or other religious organization lies wholly or partly in Vermont. A clergy member residing in some other state or in Canada can marry you or certify your Civil Marriage if he or she first obtains a special authorization from the probate court in the district where the marriage will take place. Vermont law does not require witnesses, but, if you are planning a religious ceremony, check to see if the religion's tenets require witnesses.

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Are Clergy Required to Solemnize a Same-Sex Marriage?
No. Clergy are authorized to solemnize marriages, but are not required to solemnize any particular marriage, and a clergyperson who refuses to solemnize a marriage is provided immunity from civil lawsuit under the statutes. A clergyperson may choose to regularly solemnize marriages but refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages.5

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What if we are not Vermont residents?
If neither party is a Vermont resident, you may get the license from any town clerk in the state.

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If one has a civil union from another state, can one come to Vermont and get married?
Two parties to a civil union from Vermont, or another state, can now also be joined in subsequent civil marriage; they do not need to dissolve the earlier civil union in order to marry. The key is that the parties to the civil union and the marriage must be the same. A party to an existing civil union who wishes to now marry a different party must first obtain a dissolution of the civil union.

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WARNING to NON-RESIDENTS who wish to join in Civil Marriage
While it may be easy to get a Civil Marriage in Vermont, it may be hard to dissolve the Civil Marriage later.

The Vermont Family Court only has authority to consider a dissolution when at least one member of the couple has been a resident of Vermont for at least one year preceding the date of the final hearing of the dissolution. Nonresident couples should consult with a domestic relations attorney in their home state to see whether the courts in their state will consider the dissolution action.

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How are Civil Marriages Dissolved?
The Vermont family court has jurisdiction over all proceedings relating to the dissolution of Civil Marriages. The dissolution of Civil Marriages follows the same procedures and is subject to the same substantive rights and obligations that are involved in the dissolution of marriages, including any residency requirements. 18 V.S.A. § 1206

It is unclear how other states may handle a Civil Marriage dissolution. However, in Vermont, a residency requirement exists for dissolving either a Marriage or a Civil Marriage. A complaint to dissolve a Civil Marriage in Vermont may be brought if either party to the Civil Marriage has resided within the state for a period of six months or more, but dissolution cannot be granted unless one of the parties has resided in the state at least one year preceding the date of the final hearing.

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What If My Partner and I Have a Civil Union and a Civil Marriage and We Split?
Because the parties, issues, and process for the dissolution/divorce would be the same, dissolution of the Civil Union and divorce from the Marriage could be sought at the same time and the family court could issue one order as to both. Vermont's courts have already had some experience with this issue regarding Vermont Civil Union couples who were married in either Massachusetts or Canada. Upon petition, the court granted both the dissolution and the divorce.

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Do Religious Organizations that Reflect Disapproval of Same-Sex Marriage in their Employment Policies Risk Lawsuits Under the State Employment Anti-Discrimination Law?
No. Vermont's Fair Employment Practices Act provides an exemption to religious organizations with respect to sexual orientation. Religious organizations are permitted to give preference to persons of the same religion or denomination and "may take action with respect to matters of employment which is calculated by the organization to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained."7

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Do Religious Organizations that Refuse to Extend Housing Benefits to Same-Sex Married Couples on Terms Identical to Those Offered to Married Women and Men Risk Lawsuits Under the State Fair Housing Law?
No. Vermont's Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act provides that a religious organization may limit "the sale, rental or occupancy of dwellings which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose to persons of the same religion" and may give "preference to such persons, unless membership in that religion is restricted on the basis of race, color or national origin. The religious restriction or preference must be stated in written policies and procedures of the religious organization, association or society." 8

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How Does the Act Affect Fraternal Benefit Societies?
The amendment specifically states that the Civil Marriage laws are not to be construed to affect the ability of a society to determine the admission of its members or to determine the scope of beneficiaries and shall not require a society "that has been established and is operating for charitable and educational purposes and which is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization to provide insurance benefits to any person if to do so would violate the society's free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States or by Chapter I, Article 3 of the Constitution of the State of Vermont." 9

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This information was obtained from the Vital Records Office of the Vermont Department of Health, and the Vermont Secretary of State. If you have questions that are not answered, contact your Town Clerk or the Vital Records Office of the Vermont Department of Health at 802-863-7275, or 800-439-5008 (toll free in Vermont). When contacting them, please mention you found their information on VERMONT.COM.



References from the Vermont State Legislature(PDF)
1 Sec. 5 of House Judiciary Amendment to S.115.
2 Sec. 3 of House Judiciary Amendment to S.115.
3 Sec. 8 of House Judiciary Amendment to S.115. A person aged 16 or 17 may marry with parental permission (current law not changed by the amendment); the amendment repeals current law that permits person 14 or 15 years old to marry with judicial consent.
4 Sec. 4 of House Judiciary Amendment to S.115.
5 Sec. 9 of House Judiciary Amendment to S.115.
6 Sec. 11 of House Judiciary Amendment to S.115.
7 21 V.S.A. § 495(e).
8 9 V.S.A. § 4504.
9 Sec. 10 of House Judiciary Amendment to S.115.



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