Last night's hearing on same-sex marriage was a marvel of civility, with kudos to the sergeant-at-arms for creating a situation that was neither heavy-handed nor disruptive.
The Statehouse was packed with people who were passionate, angry, scared, nervous and none of them took it out on anyone. Coming up with a crowd total is always a bit of a guess, and of course that's the thing in the largest type the next day in the paper.
Capital Police Chief Les Dimmick told me he thought it was 1,000 to 1,200. Sergeant-at-arms Francis Brooks estimated around 900. So I offered you 1,000 as a total. If you were standing in the aisle for three hours or listening by speaker from Room 10, you probably felt like it was more. The Associated Press pegged it at "more than 500." The Vermont Press Bureau called it "hundreds." I submit to you that at least I put some effort into coming up with a tally.
Nine years ago, a civil unions hearing in a snowstorm brought out 1,200, according to our account at the time. People who were there for both said this was less tense. This time, there were also many more ways to tune in from afar, courtesy of newfangled technology.
I'm not sure anyone changed anyone's minds inside the building last night, but they had a chance to tell their stories and be heard. Perhaps the real goal is to help people make up their minds outside the building, which then helps people inside the building make up their minds.
- Terri Hallenbeck