Constitutional Analysis on H.230

Under the Bruen and Heller opinions, the provisions in H.230 should be deemed constitutional under the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court’s test in Bruen, once again, is the following: “When the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct. The government must then justify its regulation by demonstrating that it is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

Starting with the Secure Storage provisions:

Under the Supreme Court’s test, we must ask what the conduct is that H.230 is regulating and whether the Second Amendment’s plain text covers that conduct.

The firearm must be securely stored when it is not being carried or in close proximity to the owner or authorized user.

The plain text of the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.

As explained in the Heller opinion, to keep arms means to have weapons or to possess them.

The secure storage provisions in H.230 do not impinge on one’s right to have or possess firearms.

To bear arms, as explained in Heller, means to “wear, bear, or carry upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.” It means to “carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

The secure storage provisions in H.230 do not prohibit an owner or authorized person from carrying a firearm in the home. It also does not prohibit an owner or authorized person from having a firearm in such close proximity that it can be readily retrieved and used. The bill also explicitly states that there is no violation if a child or prohibited person accesses and uses the firearm in self-defense or defense of another person.

So, in the first instance, H.230 does not impinge on the right protected by the Second Amendment.

Assuming that the conduct is covered by the text of the Second Amendment, one would look to whether the regulation is consistent with the National historical tradition of firearms regulations.  As explained in Bruen, (may I quote)

“(T)his historical inquiry that courts must conduct will often involve reasoning by analogy—a commonplace task for any lawyer or judge. Like all analogical reasoning, determining whether a historical regulation is a proper analogue for a distinctly modern firearm regulation requires a determination of whether the two regulations are “relevantly similar.”

“To be clear, analogical reasoning under the Second Amendment is neither a regulatory straightjacket nor a regulatory blank check. On the one hand, courts should not “uphold every modern law that remotely resembles a historical analogue,” because doing so “risk[s] endorsing outliers that our ancestors would never have accepted.” On the other hand, analogical reasoning requires only that the government identify a well-established and representative historical analogue, not a historical twin. So even if a modern-day regulation is not a dead ringer for historical precursors, it still may be analogous enough to pass constitutional muster.”

There are analogous provisions related to firearm storage. For example, as recognized in a different context in the Vermont Supreme Court case, State of Vermont v. Misch, “Vermont’s 1863 gunpowder storage law, which required more than one pound of powder be securely stored in a metal canister, placed a burden on the ability to rapidly prepare and fire multiple rounds of ammunition.”

There are other Vermont and National historic regulations that are also analogous. But a court need not undertake that analysis because, as I explained, the secure storage provision does not infringe on the right to keep and carry a firearm for self defense.

The secure storage provisions in H.230 simply do not impinge on the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms.

Moving to the ERPO provisions.

As stated in Heller, nothing in the Supreme Court’s “opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill.”

Laws prohibiting possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill provide apt analogies for the ERPO law, which bars an individual who is an immediate danger to themselves or others from possessing a firearm. Such laws aim to keep firearms from those who presumably may misuse them.

There are several dozens of historical laws related to limiting access to firearms by people deemed dangerous, just as ERPO laws do.

The ERPO provisions of H.230 should be deemed constitutional.

Moving to the Waiting Period provisions.

First and foremost, the best support for the constitutionality of laws regulating the sale and transfer of firearms is the limiting language from Heller that Bruen made clear to not disturb. The Supreme Court went out of its way to identify “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” as “longstanding” and “presumptively lawful.” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 626-27 (2008).

A waiting period would impose a condition on the sale of arms, not on the right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation and not on the right to keep and bear arms.

The plain text of the Second Amendment, as at least one court has found, does not address the sale and transfer of arms.

Also there are nearly 80 historic laws regulating aspects of sale and manufacture of firearms. There’s no shortage of historical analogs for courts to parse through if and when any provision of H.230 is challenged.

The best historical analogues are two laws from Maine and Massachusetts that regulated the sale and transfer of firearms by setting safety standards that any firearms sold needed to meet. Those laws are on the Judiciary Committee’s webpage. 

Notably, colonial government regulation included some restrictions on the commercial sale of firearms. In response to the threat posed by Indian tribes, the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia all passed laws in the first half of the seventeenth century making it a crime to sell, give, or otherwise deliver firearms or ammunition to Indians.

At least two colonies also controlled more generally where colonial settlers could transport or sell guns. Connecticut banned the sale of firearms by its residents outside the colony.

And under Virginia law, any person found within an Indian town or more than three miles from an English plantation with arms or ammunition above and beyond what he would need for personal use would be guilty of the crime of selling arms to Indians, even if he was not actually bartering, selling, or otherwise engaging with the Indians. 

Citations for these laws can be found in the case Teixeira v. Cnty. of Alameda, 873 F.3d 670, 685 (9th Cir. 2017), which is on the Judiciary Committee webpage.

In short, the waiting period provisions of H.230 impose conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms and should be deemed constitutional.

You all can feel confident that the provisions of H.230 have been well-drafted to withstand constitutional challenges and are good policy.

Regarding claims that Heller found firearm storage laws unconstitutional:

• This is an incorrect reading of the Heller decision, which made clear that it was not striking down such laws (see page 60 of the decision): “Nor, correspondingly, does our analysis suggest the invalidity of laws regulating the storage of firearms to prevent accidents.” Courts have subsequently upheld state secure storage laws,including the Ninth Circuit.

• Heller invalidated a law that required people, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, to keep guns unloaded even if under attack in their homes. That’s not what any secure storage laws do, as the Court itself recognized.

Since Heller, courts have upheld the constitutionality of secure storage laws.

Suicide Prevention

The following is the report I delivered on the House Floor in support of H.230, an act relating to mechanisms to reduce suicide.

Your House Judiciary Committee focused on three main issues when we considered H.230.

First, we considered issues related to criminal offenses. We asked the following:  Were the elements of the offenses in the bill clearly defined and consistent with current law?  Were the penalties associated with the offenses consistent with current penalties? What issues might arise with respect to the enforceability of the offenses?

Second, we considered court process. This was a particular focus when we looked at the bill’s proposed changes to Vermont’s red flag law – a law that currently allows a State’s Attorney or the Attorney General to obtain an Extreme Risk Protection Order.

Third, our main concern was the constitutionality of the provisions. We analyzed whether the provisions would run afoul of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or of Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution.

As to the benefits of H.230 in addressing suicide prevention, we defer to the Committee on Health Care, although some of our witnesses discussed that issue. We did consider how the provisions would otherwise impact public safety, an issue within the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction.

Before reviewing the details of the Judiciary Committee’s strike all amendment to H.230, I will first provide a background for our analysis of the law’s constitutionality. I will describe the current state of the law related to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

That amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an “individual right to possess and carry” firearms for the purpose of self defense. However, the Court did not indicate how the lower courts should evaluate firearms regulations going forward. Post-Heller, courts generally analyzed firearms regulations under one of two standards — intermediate scrutiny (where a law must be substantially related to an important state interest) or strict scrutiny (where a law must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest). These tests required balancing the state’s professed need for the regulation against the state’s encroachment on the right to possess and carry firearms. These are known as “means-ends” tests.

When the Judiciary Committee had considered firearm violence prevention measures in the past, we applied this means-ends balancing test.  We balanced important or compelling state interests against any restrictions to the right to keep and bear arms, and we would seek to narrowly tailor the measures to maintain a proper balance. 

But the Supreme Court recently discarded that test in the Second Amendment context. Last year in the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court changed the legal analysis that is required to evaluate firearms laws under the Second Amendment. The Court expressly rejected any type of means-end balancing test, and instead said that going forward the test would be the following:   (May I quote from the Bruen decision?)

“When the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct. The government must then justify its regulation by demonstrating that it is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

Since issuance of the Bruen opinion, courts have been using and will continue to use this test to review laws implicating the Second Amendment. And so far, the courts have come to divergent conclusions on how to apply the Bruen test.

The overarching question for courts and for us in applying the Bruen test is:  What types of regulations may be permitted under the Bruen test?  It is unclear if the 6 member Bruen majority even agrees on the answer to that question. Two justices who wrote a separate opinion in Bruen might join the three dissenting justices to uphold some firearms regulations that others in the majority would strike down. Justice Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion joined by Chief Justice Roberts emphasizing that a key holding of the Court’s earlier decision in Heller was still good law. Justice Kavanaugh explained:   (May I quote from the Bruen Concurrence?)

Properly interpreted, the Second Amendment allows a “variety” of gun regulations.

As Justice Scalia wrote in his opinion for the Court in Heller, . . .  ‘Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. . . the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose…. [N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. [Footnote 26: We identify these presumptively lawful regulatory measures only as examples; our list does not purport to be exhaustive.]

At least five of the current justices, then, could vote to uphold a relatively broad spectrum of firearms regulations.

In the Judiciary Committee, we heard from witnesses who testified that they believe the provisions in H.230 are constitutional and from others who believe that they are unconstitutional.  Ultimately, as our legislative counsel testified, courts will have the final say on whether the provisions are constitutional. At this time, it is not clear how the courts binding on Vermont will rule on such firearms regulations. And it may not be clear for a while.

It is more clear that H.230 is constitutional under Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution. In the 2021 opinion State of Vermont v. Misch, the Vermont Supreme Courtset forth a standard called the reasonable-regulation test for evaluating challenges under Article 16. Under that test, the Vermont Court will uphold a statute implicating the right to bear arms provided it is a reasonable exercise of the state’s power to protect the public safety and welfare. The provisions of H.230 would protect the public safety and welfare of Vermonters and should be deemed constitutional under Article 16.

The Vermont Attorney General testified that she acknowledged that there were concerns about the constitutionality of any gun legislation in light of the Bruen decision. But the Attorney General concluded that her office believes H.230 is constitutional and urged the legislature to pass the bill.

I have no reason to disagree with the Attorney General.  Indeed, we heard strong testimony that the provisions in H.230 for safe storage, improving accessibility to our red flag law, and implementing a waiting period are constitutional, both under the Second Amendment and Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution. Courts will have the final say, but we believe they should find such provisions to be constitutional.

Now, turning to the Judiciary Committee’s strike all amendment, found on today’s calendar at page 974.

Based on testimony and documents from the Department of State’s Attorneys, the strike all amendment adds five findings.  Finding number 8 provides recent information about the effectiveness of our red flag law. Findings 9 through 12 address certain issues related to public safety. Findings 9 and 10 note that firearms purchased in Vermont and transferred out of state contribute to violent crime in other states. Finding 11 notes that firearms are often acquired in Vermont through straw purchases, where someone buys a gun for another person who is not legally allowed to own one, such as felons. Waiting periods are shown to deter straw purchases. Finding number 12 notes that research has shown that waiting period laws can reduce gun homicides.

Turning to section 2 of the bill, which involves secure firearms storage.  The amendment grammatically changes subdivision (a)(1) for clarity.

Subsection (2) was revised to address a vagueness concern.  The bill as passed by Health Care stated that “This subsection shall not apply if the firearm is carried by or under the control of the owner or another lawfully authorized user.”  The term “under the control of” was deemed vague so we replaced that language to “within such close proximity that it can be readily retrieved and used by the owner or another authorized user.”

Skipping to the definitions section on page 977 of today’s calendar, the strike all amendment adds a definition at subdivision (e)(1) of authorized user.

Back to page 976. Subdivisions (3)(A) and (B) in the bill as passed by Health Care were listed as exceptions to subsection (a). The Judiciary Committee felt that rather than exceptions to the requirements for secure storage in subsection (a), these were more properly considered as actions that should not give rise to a violation of the secure storage requirement. This is admittedly a bit of a nuanced change.

Moving on to subdivision (b)(1), which the Judiciary Committee has struck. This provision would have imposed a fine on the owner of a premises for failing to properly secure firearms, whether or not the firearms were ultimately accessed and misused. This provision probably raised the most concern in testimony and the committee because it would be difficult to enforce. And there is a concern for privacy. The concern was raised that in order to enforce the provision, someone would have to go into a home and inspect the premises to see if firearms are securely stored. Striking this provision eliminates these concerns around enforcement and privacy.

Our strike all amendment provides that criminal penalties would only be applied for violation of the safe storage provision in cases when a child or prohibited person accesses an unsecured firearm and misuses it. Misuse means committing a crime with the firearm, displaying the firearm in a threatening manner, or causing death or serious bodily injury with the firearm. 

The other significant change to the secure storage provision in the strike all amendment relates to injury. Subdivision (b)(2) imposes a five-year felony if a child or prohibited person gains access to an unsecured firearm and causes death or, in the bill as passed by Health Care, injury to any person.  Under the Health Care Committee’s definition, “injury” would include a harmful effect on one’s health, including mental, emotional, or physical health, based on the misuse of an unsecured firearm.  And certainly such an injury would be possible. But this is not a recognized injury under our criminal laws, particularly for a felony-level offense. That definition is too broad. For a felony-level offense, the appropriate standard is serious bodily injury, which is defined in the strike all amendment through a cross reference to 13 VSA 1021(a)(2).

(2) “Serious bodily injury” means:

(A) bodily injury that creates any of the following:

(i) a substantial risk of death;

(ii) a substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ;

(iii) a substantial impairment of health; or

(iv) substantial disfigurement

In subsection (c), injury is changed to serious bodily injury. In addition, the word shall is changed to may to recognize the importance of prosecutorial discretion in such situations. A witness from the Department of State’s Attorney testified that subsection (c) was not necessary because a State’s Attorney would already consider whether to charge a parent in this situation. But we felt it was important to send the message acknowledging the trauma that a parent would experience in this situation while recognizing that the decision is within the discretion of the prosecutor.

Turning now to Sections 4 through 6 on page 978.

The intent of the Health Care and Judiciary Committees is to make the process for obtaining an Extreme Risk Protection Order (or ERPO) more accessible to those who know first-hand whether someone poses an extreme risk to themself or others.

As has been explained, an ERPO is a civil order that temporarily prohibits individuals who pose a danger of injury to self (including suicide) or others from purchasing, possessing, or receiving any dangerous weapons, including firearms. 

Under current law, only a State’s Attorney or the Office of the Attorney General may file an ERPO petition. They usually would seek an emergency, or ex parte, ERPO first. To obtain an ex parte ERPO, the court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent poses an imminent and extreme risk of causing harm to themselves or another person by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a dangerous weapon or by having a dangerous weapon within their custody or control. A hearing for an ex parte ERPO does not have to include the person against whom the order is sought. But, if the court issues an ex parte ERPO, it must provide that person notice that the order was entered and must hold a hearing open to that person within 14 days. After that later hearing, if the court finds by a higher standard – clear and convincing evidence – that the person is a danger to themself or others, it may issue an order that lasts up to six months. If an ex parte or final ERPO is issued, law enforcement will assist in obtaining weapons that the respondent must relinquish.

H.230 as passed by Health Care would allow a family or household member to initiate the process for obtaining an ERPO by directly petitioning the court for the order  A State’s Attorney or the Attorney General would also still be able to do so.

The Judiciary Committee’s amendment first changes the definition of “Household member.” In the bill as passed by Health Care, the definition cross references 15 VSA 1101. That definition would include anyone who has ever lived with or dated the person who presents an extreme risk of harm, which is extremely broad.  The committee’s amendment narrows the definition to include only those currently living together, sharing occupancy in a dwelling, dating, or engaged in a sexual relationship.

Turning to section 6 of the strike all on page 979 of today’s calendar. The Judiciary Committee’s new subdivision 4054(b)(1)(B) would provide the following:  if a court grants an ex parte ERPO that was initiated by a family or household member, the Court would notify a State’s Attorney or Attorney General, and one of these offices would take over the case. They would become the party in court in the action for a final ERPO.

Jumping back to section 5 of the bill at page 978. Instead of requesting a temporary ex parte order, the family or household member could instead directly file a petition for a final ERPO. Under new subdivision 4053(b)(2) in our strike all amendment, the State’s Attorney or the Attorney General would be substituted as the plaintiff in the action.

To obtain a final ERPO, the standard of proof to show that the person is an imminent and extreme risk of causing harm to themselves or another person is clear and convincing evidence. That standard would be difficult for a lay person to meet. This is the primary reason for substituting the State’s Attorney or Attorney General in a case seeking a final ERPO. 

In addition, once an ex parte or emergency ERPO is entered, law enforcement and a State’s Attorney or Attorney General will already necessarily be involved in the process for obtaining relinquished firearms.

The Judiciary Committee amendment also strikes what was Section 5 of H.230 as passed by the Health CAre Committee. With the substitution of the state’s attorney or Attorney General in the case, it is important that a family or household member files the petition in the county where the respondent resides or the county where the events giving rise to the petition occurred. The case shouldn’t be filed in the county where the family or household member resides if it is different than where the respondent resides or the events occurred.

In addition the Judiciary Committee amendment strikes what was Section 8 of H.230 as passed by the Health Care Committee. With the substitution of a State’s Attorney or Attorney General in the final ERPO process, and therefore as the moving party for any extension of the ERPO, the changes to Section 8 were no longer necessary.

Family or household members would continue to be able to go through a State’s Attorney or Attorney General to obtain an emergency ERPO. In many instances this would be a better approach given the expertise of those offices. But the amendment eases the way for a family or household member to initiate the process by going directly to court.

In short, the Judiciary Committee’s amendments to H.230 seek to make the process for obtaining an ERPO more accessible to family and current household members, those who are in the best position to know if someone is a danger to themselves or others.


Turning to Section 7 of H.230, which involves a 72-hour waiting period for the purchase of a firearm in Vermont. 

Last year, the legislature passed S.30, which, among other provisions, closed the so-called Charleston Loophole. In Vermont, anyone purchasing a firearm needs to undergo a background check. However, gun purchases can legally go forward under federal law after three days if the background check has not yet been completed. That is the “Charleston Loophole.” S.30 closed this loophole – under the bill, the purchase could not be made until the background check was final, no matter how long that might take. The Governor vetoed S.30. 

In response, the legislature passed S.4 with a compromise related to background checks. S.4 provided more time for completion of the background check, from 3 days to 7 days, but if the background check was not completed in 7 days, the firearm purchase could proceed. The Governor signed S.4.

Back to H.230, the waiting period provision in the bill as passed by Health Care would have inadvertently closed the Charleston Loophole. Under the bill, a firearm purchase could not go forward until the background check was completed and the purchaser was deemed not to be a prohibited person. To honor the compromise reached last year, the Judiciary Committee amendment would provide that the transfer of a firearm could proceed either 72 hours after the purchaser passes a background check or after 7 days without any result from the background check, whichever occurs first.

The Judiciary Committee amendment also addresses a concern related to gun shows. These shows often occur over a weekend, making it more difficult for a transaction to occur and for a purchaser to obtain a firearm under a 72-hour waiting period. The amendment would exempt purchases at gun shows from the 72-hour waiting period. This exception, however, would be repealed effective July 1, 2024.  This repeal would give the legislature time for further consideration of whether a person who has proof of firearm ownership and can pass a background check should be subject to the 72-hour waiting period. It would allow time to consider a method for firearm purchasers to be able to show that they already own a firearm.

We heard from the following witnesses:

1.              A doctor with the Pediatric Critical Care, University of Vermont Children’s Hospital 
2.              Co-sponsor 
3.              President, VT Federation of Sportsman Club 
4.              Litigation Attorney, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence 
5.              Vermont Attorney General
6.              Government Affairs Manager, Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce 
7.              President, Gun Owners of Vermont 
8.              Student – Mount Abraham Union High School, representing GunSense Vermont
9.              Legislative Counsel
10.  Associate Regional Director of State Government Affairs, Everytown for Gun Safety 
11.  Counsel, Everytown for Gun Safety 
12.  Attorney, Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs 
13.  Supervising Attorney, Appellate Division, Office of the Defender General 
14.  Chief Superior Judge, Vermont Judiciary 

The Committee vote was 7-4-0.

H.230 provides meaningful measures to reduce the incidence of firearm violence in Vermont, particularly related to the use of this lethal means of suicide. There is strong support for the constitutionality of the provisions. H.230 is a solution that we should implement now. It will save lives while preserving Vermonter’s right to keep and bear arms. I ask you to support the Judiciary Committee’s strike-all amendment.

Addressing Domestic and Sexual Violence

The House Judiciary Committee has had a productive first half of the 2023 Biennium, passing out ten bills addressing a wide range of issues. It passed bills that would establish protections for providers and patients of reproductive or gender-affirming health care, modernize Vermont’s power of attorney law, and eliminate driver’s license suspensions as a consequence for failure to pay fines on moving violations. Throughout the session, the committee has also focused on addressing domestic and sexual violence.

Data from the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence shows that more than 40,000 Vermonters experience domestic or sexual violence every year. The House Judiciary Committee has worked on multiple bills this session to protect more Vermonters and better address the full spectrum of abuse.

Most survivors of domestic or sexual violence do not seek relief from their abuser either through a protective order or a report of abuse to law enforcement. In Vermont, only 12 to 20% of survivors access the criminal justice system and BIPOC survivors are even less likely to do so. National data suggests that only a quarter of sexual assault victims report the abuse to law enforcement or seek medical care.

Often individuals do not report domestic or sexual violence because they fear the typical criminal justice process. Also, many survivors wish to, or out of financial necessity must, continue to be in some form of relationship with the people who harm them – whether this is continuing an intimate partner relationship or navigating the challenges of coparenting. Going to court or to the police is not necessarily an option they are likely to pursue.

To address this reluctance and provide an avenue other than a court or the police to address such violence, stakeholders have explored the potential for restorative approaches. In 2018, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 146, which created an interdisciplinary Study Committee to examine restorative justice approaches to addressing domestic and sexual violence. The Committee’s report included consensus recommendations that the House Judiciary Committee followed in its work on H.41. 

The bill, recently passed by the House, would allow community justice centers (CJCs) to receive referrals of domestic and sexual violence cases under specific conditions. Opening the door to a restorative justice approach, which is victim-centered and focused on repairing harm, may lead more victims to seek relief.

While domestic violence is most often equated with physical violence, domestic abuse can take many forms. One such damaging form of intimate partner violence is litigation abuse. Litigation abuse is the misuse of court proceedings by abusers to control, harass, intimidate, coerce, and/or impoverish survivors. Abusers may make frequent court filings that the survivor of domestic violence then needs to answer, costing money, work time, and a sense of security. Abusive litigation is also a drain on the court’s very limited resources. 

To address litigation abuse, the House has passed H.45, which limits a convicted abuser’s ability to use the court system to continue harming a survivor of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. The bill would establish a narrowly defined process to protect victims while still ensuring the due process rights of those using abusive tactics. It would allow a court to screen legal filings to protect both the wellbeing of the survivor and the resources of the court.

The House also passed H.148, a bill that would ban child marriage. Vermonters who marry younger than 18 years old (89% of whom are female) are more likely to be abused by their spouse and are at higher risk for a host of physical and mental health challenges. Because marriage is a contract, this bill aligns with Vermont’s stance that children cannot enter into a legally binding contract.

When the legislature returns from the town meeting break, the House Judiciary Committee will continue its consideration of H.27, a bill that would include coercive control as a form of abuse for which a victim may obtain a protective order. Abusers may use various coercive tactics to control their partners, isolate them from support, and deprive them of independence. This type of abuse often escalates until physical abuse occurs. H.27 would expand a victim’s access to protection by allowing judges to consider the full pattern of abusive behavior before it potentially turns lethal.