Vermont Senate votes to remove all slavery references from state Constitution

Vermont Senate votes to remove all slavery references from state Constitution
© Getty Images

Vermont legislators on Wednesday advanced a bill that would remove all mention of slavery from the Green Mountain State’s constitution, according to CNN.

The state partially abolished slavery in 1777, but the abolition only applied to people older than 21. The proposed bill would remove the distinction and any other mention of slavery from the state constitution, according to CNN.

ADVERTISEMENT

"There's been some confusion about the way it was worded. It seemed to imply that once a person arrived at age 21 there could be no slavery, which seemed to imply that child slavery was condoned," Vermont Sen. Jeanette White (D), who sponsored the legislation, told the network. "We felt it was necessary to get rid of that ... in this time where we're seeing a rise of hate crimes and white nationalist groups."

James Lyall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, told CNN the measure was “an important recognition of our society's failure to root out systemic racism and white supremacy culture, which does violence to communities of color every day, here in Vermont and across the nation.”

The bill passed in the Vermont state Senate on Wednesday, 28-1, and now heads to the House. Even if it passes, amending the state constitution would require another vote in the legislature after January 2021 and a statewide referendum, according to CNN.

The lone vote against the measure, Sen. Dick McCormack (D), called the measure unnecessary, noting that the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery nationwide in 1865.

"Given when you look at the horrible, evil thing slavery is, that fact that Vermont was the first to outlaw it is a source of great pride," McCormack said. "[The language] ought to be preserved."

Changing the language of the state constitution, he added, would be “put[ting] a smiley face on our history.”