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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A bare 24 hours after the House gave its final approval, Gov. Howard Dean today signed the bill into law making Vermont the first state to give gay couples the rights and benefits of marriage.
It reached his desk shortly before lunchtime. And by the time of a 2 p.m. news conference, he already had signed it far out of view of television cameras, photographers and reporters.
``I think it is a courageous and powerful statement about who we are in the state of Vermont,'' Dean said. ``I also believe that this legislation speaks to the heart of this state, and certainly to my heart.''
Dean signed the bill privately because he did not want the ceremony to be a triumphal party by supporters of the law. Instead, he said, it was time for the state to begin healing.
``In politics, bill signings are triumphal,'' he said. ``They represent overcoming of one side over another. These celebrations, as the subject of the matter of the bill, will be private.''
The bill was approved Tuesday by House members 79-68.