Vt. Constitution Formally Amended to Include Reproductive Liberty And Anti-Slavery Values

Voters approved statewide ballot questions in November, ending a multi-year process

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State leaders formally completed a multi-year process to amend the Vermont Constitution Tuesday, enrolling a pair of measures into the historic document that were approved by voters in November.

“We are here to make sure Vermont values are included in our founding document,” said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, who joined Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, in certifying the votes on the amendments.

The ceremony formally enrolled the amendments in parchment and added them to the Vermont Constitution, completing the ratification of the changes voters statewide approved by overwhelming margins.

One amendment updates old language about slavery and indentured servitude to say they are wrong — no ifs ands or buts. The wording of the late 1700s document had certain exceptions built in, like for payment of debts.

“I just feel joyful and grateful,” beamed Indi Schoenherr, a policy advocate with the ACLU of Vermont, who worked on efforts to pass the amendments and who witnessed Tuesday’s formal ceremony. “It is a reckoning of Black humanity and welcoming our voices into spaces that have not wanted us there.”

The other change cements as a human right that Vermonters should to be able to make personal reproductive choices around contraception or abortion with their care providers — and without future roadblocks set up by state politicians.

“It says to me that we care about the future here,” said Logan Snow of Bennington, who worked as an organizer in southern Vermont for the Vermont for Reproductive Liberty campaign. “I have a niece who’s 19, and I think about her and her peers a lot. And it really centered me on this campaign and this makes me feel like we’re looking out for this generation and for generations to come.”

The first-ever woman who’ll represent Vermont in Washington, D.C., Becca Balint, was the leader of the Vermont Senate through the final phase of the amendments’ passage— before they went to voters for approval. Tuesday, she vowed to talk up the amendments with her future U.S. House colleagues.

“And give them the courage to take up these issues in their home states,” Congresswoman-elect Balint said. “We can continue to be a beacon of light in this country in Vermont.”

Multiple state leaders pointed out something as consequential as changing the Vermont Constitution takes years and tripartisan support, especially given the landslide approval the measures had.

“They protect and preserve our civil liberties as Vermonters and show the rest of the country that we can work together to create a better tomorrow,” Vermont House Speaker Jill Krowinski, a Democrat, said of the constitutional amendments.

Secretary of State Condos noted the last time a change was formally added to the Vermont Constitution was 2010, when 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in Vermont primary elections, if they will have turned 18 by the time a general election is held.

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