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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Kim Fountain to Leave Pride Center of Vermont

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 3:16 PM

  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Kim Fountain
Pride Center of Vermont executive director Kim Fountain will step down in September after five years on the job.

Fountain, the subject of a recent profile in Seven Days, announced in an email Tuesday that she’s taken a new job as chief operating officer at the Center on Halsted in Chicago.

According to its website, the center is the “Midwest’s most comprehensive community center” serving LGBTQ people.

In Vermont, many credit the 48-year-old Fountain with revitalizing the Pride Center, which was struggling financially at the time of her arrival. In recent months, after several tragic local and national events involving LGBTQ people, Fountain became a de facto spokesperson for the community.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Photos: Burlington Mourns the Orlando Shooting Victims

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 11:12 AM

A large crowd marched through downtown Burlington on Monday evening to remember the victims of Sunday's shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando. The shooting left 49 victims dead and many more injured.

Police estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 turned out to the march and rally organized by the Pride Center of Vermont.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Vermonters Celebrate Supreme Court Ruling on Gay Marriage

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 8:11 PM

Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg) - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg)
When a jubilant Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg) — one of Vermont's first openly gay lawmakers, who led the charge for civil unions and same-sex marriage —strode up the steps of Burlington's City Hall and, with a flourish, popped open a rainbow-colored umbrella, he captured the mood of the crowd before him. 

A large group gathered on short notice Friday evening to celebrate the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling that same-sex marriage is a right protected by the Constitution. People hugged, cried, and wished one another, "Happy Decision Day."

"Today, love won," said Kim Fountain, executive director of the Pride Center of Vermont.

Several people reflected on Vermont's pioneering efforts — first allowing civil unions and then becoming the first state to legalize gay marriage legislatively.

House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown) recalled weeping after lawmakers successfully overrode Governor Jim Douglas's veto of Vermont's gay marriage bill. "I went back to my office and just felt the release of having done something so monumental," he said.

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Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage; Burlington to Celebrate

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 11:33 AM

Kim Fountain preparing to talk to reporters at Pride Center of Vermont. - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • Kim Fountain preparing to talk to reporters at Pride Center of Vermont.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Friday that same-sex couples have a right to wed, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

Pride Center of Vermont is planning a 5:30 p.m. event Friday evening on the steps of Burlington City Hall to celebrate the landmark decision — and expects a crowd.

"This is such a significant moment in LGBTQ history," said Kim Fountain, executive director of Pride Center Vermont, in a statement. "Just 50 years ago, there were no rights protecting LGBTQ people. Today, the highest court in the country handed down a decision consistent with polls that show overwhelming public support for marriage equality."

The center noted that Vermont has been a national leader in the fight for marriage equality. In 2000, Vermont became the first state to offer civil unions to same-sex couples. In 2009, the state became the first to legislate a marriage-equity law.

As soon as the SCOTUS decision was announced, Fountain said, phones and social media lit up — and people are still texting, Facebooking and tweeting hours later. People are "ebullient, absolutely joyous," she said. 

"I'm just so excited with how far we've come," said Hillary Boone, a former board co-chair for the center.

People at the center on Friday noted that many rights accompany legal marriage — issues related to insurance, inheritances and more. "This helps to protect those folks," Fountain said.

The Pride Center is inviting people to the steps of Burlington City Hall tonight to share their stories and to thank the people who've worked for years to further the issue.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

House Takes First Step in Banning Official Travel to Discriminatory States

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 5:36 PM

Rep. Paul Poirier urges House members to support a resolution asking other states to protect citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientiation. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Rep. Paul Poirier urges House members to support a resolution asking other states to protect citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientiation.

By a 119-1 vote, the House passed a resolution Friday asking the governor, legislature and judiciary to ban travel to 13 U.S. states that allow discrimination. It also calls on all states to pass laws protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Financial embargoes do work,” Rep. Jim McCullough (D-Williston) declared as House members were about to vote.

The resolution, H.R.8, comes in response to recent laws passed in Indiana and other states to protect religious freedom, which were widely criticized for also permitting faith-based discrimination against gays.

Indiana took action Thursday to alter its law, but Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg) said it wasn’t enough. Only 20 states offer legal protection against job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, he said.

Rep. Warren Van Wyck (R-Ferrisburgh) cast the lone dissenting vote. He didn’t explain his vote on the floor but had a written statement handy. “Vermont has plenty of challenges within its border,” he wrote. “I am not interested in passing judgments on the actions of the legislatures of 49 other states unless they directly affect the substantive well being of the state of Vermont and its residents.”

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Montpeculiar: Consensus on Condemning Discrimination, But Not on How

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 8:11 PM

Reps. Diana Gonzalez (P/D-Winooski), left, and Anne Donahue (R-Northfield) discuss an anti-discriminatory resolution Thursday at the Statehouse. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Reps. Diana Gonzalez (P/D-Winooski), left, and Anne Donahue (R-Northfield) discuss an anti-discriminatory resolution Thursday at the Statehouse.
As they wrapped up work on blockbuster education and water-quality bills, House members spent part of Thursday pondering how to express their feelings about a spate of religious freedom laws popping up in states around the country.

As the day wore on, those expressions grew more complicated. So complicated that discussion on the House floor was delayed until Friday. It seemed every statement condemning discrimination either went too far or not far enough for somebody.

Earlier this week, Gov. Peter Shumlin issued a ban on non-essential state travel to Indiana, which has drawn controversy for a religious freedom law many believe opens the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians. On Thursday, 26 House members sponsored a resolution asking Gov. Peter Shumlin, the legislature and judiciary to extend that ban to all states with similar religious freedom laws. 

"This legislative body expresses its strong opposition to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act as signed into law on March 26, 2015," the resolution read, "and expresses its support for, at a minimum, enactment of the proposed clarification and, preferably, for the law's repeal." 

Indiana’s law was widely seen as a legal justification for private business owners to refuse, on religious grounds, to serve gays and lesbians. The law ignited outcry, prompting lawmakers in Indiana to vote Thursday to change the law to prohibit its use as a legal defense for refusing to offer services. 

“We need to do this because I think it expresses the majority will of the people of Vermont,” said Rep. Paul Poirier (I-Barre), who was among the sponsors.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Boy Scouts Bow Out of Montpelier Parade Over National Policy on Gay Leaders

Posted By on Tue, Jul 1, 2014 at 11:22 AM

  • Photo by Fred Cook, courtesy of Montpelier Alive
Local Boy Scouts won't be selling bottled water or volunteering on the clean-up crew for Montpelier's July 3 parade this year. The reason?

City councilors earlier this month balked at approving a vendor request for the Scouts, citing unease about the Boy Scouts of America's national membership policy banning gay and lesbian scout leaders from the organization. The council tabled what would have otherwise been a quick approval and invited the Scouts to return two weeks later to discuss the application.

The Scouts declined that invitation — and pulled their application to be a vendor at the parade. Now the group of Scouts, which included two troops and one co-ed "venturing crew," have decided against volunteering for the clean-up crew after the parade, too. The Scouts have been involved for the last three years, but after the city council kerfuffle, "we're going to steer clear of Montpelier for awhile," said Leslie Sanborn, a Barre resident and longtime volunteer with all three scouting groups. "It's left a very bad taste in our mouths."  

The Scouts aren't the only one who feel that way. Yesterday, Associated General Contractors of Vermont pulled its longstanding donation of safety vests and cones from the event, citing dissatisfaction with the city council's treatment of the Boy Scouts. Casella Waste Systems and the local sheriff stepped in with safety equipment to fill that gap. City councilors and other community volunteers are stepping up to fill the shoes left behind by the Scouts, said Ashley Witzenberger, the executive director of the event's organizer, Montpelier Alive.

"We're just trying to put on a really great day for the whole community," said Witzenberger, who expressed appreciation for the Scouts' hard work in the past and disappointment at the fall-out from the debate. The July 3 parade is the organization's largest event, and pulls more than 20,000 people to downtown Montpelier. 

Meanwhile, the back-and-forth has touched off angry phone calls to Montpelier Alive, comments of support to the city council member who raised objections to the Scouts' policy — and a flurry of letters to the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. At the heart of the debate is this question: Just how much does a national policy barring openly gay Scout leaders matter on the ground in Vermont?

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

This Week's Issue: A Neighborly Noise Feud in Burlington, 'Border' Security and Maple Saplings

Posted on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 11:44 AM


Find these news and politics stories in this week's Seven Days...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This Week's Issue: Methadone, Molly and More

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Grab your favorite pumpkin-flavored coffee drink — that little chill in the morning means fall is here, and the first Seven Days of the season hit the streets today. Here's what you'll find for news and politics this week:

Pick up this week's issue in print, online or on the app.

This week's cover image by the late Stephen Huneck is courtesy of the Stephen Huneck Gallery. See this week's cover story about the future of Dog Mountain.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

For Bi-National, Same-Sex Couples in Vermont, Court's DOMA Decision is a Reprieve

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 7:39 PM


Barely a month ago, Michael Upton's hopes of living in the same country as his partner were dashed.

Since 2008, the South Hero resident had been in a relationship with Jandui Cavalcante, a Brazilian national. But because they're gay — and the federal government didn't recognize their relationship — Cavalcante couldn't apply for a green card.

Their best bet seemed to be an amendment Sen. Patrick Leahy had introduced to comprehensive immigration reform legislation extending new rights to binational, gay couples. But after an impassioned debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Leahy's fellow Democrats bailed on him and he withdrew his amendment. 

On Wednesday, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, the point became moot.

"It's very exciting. I could feel the huge sigh of relief 5000 miles away as tens of thousands of people realized this nightmare has a near end in sight," said Upton, who is currently visiting Cavalcante in Brazil. "We were together in Rio de Janeiro, watching SCOTUSblog line-by-line."

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