Constitution of Vermont

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Vellum manuscript of the Constitution of Vermont, 1777. This constitution was amended in 1786, and replaced in 1793 following Vermont's admission to the federal union in 1791.
Marble tablet with a passage from the Constitution of Vermont in the Hall of Inscriptions at the Vermont State House.

The Constitution of the State of Vermont is the fundamental body of law of the U.S. State of Vermont. It was adopted in 1793 following Vermont's admission to the Union in 1791 and is largely based upon the 1777 Constitution of the Vermont Republic which was ratified at Windsor in the Old Constitution House and amended in 1786. At 8,295 words, it is the shortest U.S. state constitution.[1]

Before 1791, Vermont was known as the Vermont Republic, an independent nation governed under the Constitution of the Vermont Republic. When adopted in 1777, that constitution was among the most far reaching in guaranteeing personal freedoms and individual rights.

The 1777 constitution's Declaration of Rights of the Inhabitants of the State of Vermont anticipated the United States Bill of Rights by a dozen years.

The first chapter of that earlier document, a "Declaration of Rights of the Inhabitants of the State of Vermont", was drafted in 1777 and is followed by a "Plan or Frame of Government" outlining the structure of governance with powers distributed between three co-equal branches: executive, legislative and judiciary.

Amending the constitution[edit]

The Vermont Constitution, Chapter 2, Section 72 establishes the procedure for amending the constitution. The Vermont General Assembly, the state's bi-cameral legislature, has the sole power to propose amendments to the Constitution of Vermont. The process must be initiated by a Senate that has been elected in an "off-year", that is, an election that does not coincide with the election of the U.S. president. An amendment must originate in the Senate and be approved by a two-thirds vote. It must then receive a majority vote in the House. Then, after a newly elected legislature is seated, the amendment must receive a majority vote in each chamber, first in the Senate, then in the House. The proposed amendment must then be presented to the voters as a referendum and receive a majority of the votes cast.

1990s revision to gender-neutral language[edit]

In 1991 and again in 1993, the Vermont General Assembly approved a constitutiuonal amendment authorizing the justices of the Vermont Supreme Court to revise the Constitution in "gender-inclusive" language, replacing gender-specific terms. (Examples: "men" and "women" were replaced by "persons" and the "Freeman's Oath," which requires all newly-registered voters in the state to swear by, was renamed the "Voters' Oath"). The revision was ratified by the voters in the general election of November 8, 1994. Vermont is one of six states whose constitutions are written in gender-neutral language.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "State constitutional reform: Is it necessary?" Hammonds, C.W. (2001).
  2. ^ [1] Vermont State Archives: 1991: Proposal 11 Subject: Gender inclusive language

External links[edit]