Balint’s State of the Union guest pick highlights former Vermont state representative

By Aubrey Weaver | Community News Service

Feb. 7 was an evening of firsts. U.S. Rep. Becca Balint, D-Vermont — the first woman and first openly LGBTQ individual to represent Vermont in Congress — attended her first State of the Union address that night.

A State of the Union tradition honored by presidents and representatives alike is bringing special guests to attend the annual address. Presidents get to bring many, but House representatives like Balint only get one.

Representatives often select somebody from their home state or district who, through their life or efforts, symbolizes the congressperson’s policy interests or who the representative wants to honor for their important role in local politics.

U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Rep. Becca Balint, left, welcomed former Vermont state Rep. Bill Lippert, right, as her congressional guest for President Biden’s State of the Union Address on Feb. 7, 2023.

Many longtime Vermonters may recognize the name of Balint’s guest for the 2023 address: Bill Lippert Jr., a state lawmaker of nearly 30 years and trailblazer of LGBTQ rights in Vermont.

“I was deeply touched, honored, deeply touched and excited. And so of course I was delighted to accept her invitation to be her special guest,” Lippert told WAMC Northeast Public Radio in an interview last week.

Lippert represented the Chittenden-4 Vermont House district from 1994 to 2023. During his time as a legislator, Lippert was a primary sponsor of Vermont’s first-in-the-nation civil unions law in 2000, which granted marriage benefits to same-sex couples, and in 2009 he was a key proponent for passage of the state’s same-sex marriage rights bill.

Even prior to his time as a lawmaker, Lippert, a gay man, was an established advocate for LGBTQ rights in Vermont politics, long before legal equality arrived. In the 1980s, he helped organize the first Burlington Pride Parade and founded several influential support and advocacy groups for LGBTQ people.

“Bill’s bravery as an openly gay legislator came at a time where many remained closeted due to lack of legal protections,” Balint said in a news release about choosing Lippert to come to the State of the Union. “His fearless championing of equality paved the way for LGBTQ leaders like me to run for office.”

Balint’s selection of Lippert as her guest came in the wake of legislative attacks on the LGBTQ community across the nation this year, with more than 120 bills nationwide restricting things like gender-affirming health care and even targeting marriage nondiscrimination, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’re in the midst of some pretty nasty attacks on LGBTQ folks across the country,” Lippert said in his radio interview. “And we have some happening in Vermont as well.”

Lippert offered praise for Balint and the positive implications he sees with her election. “I think Becca’s an incredible role model and is just by her presence having a profound impact,” he said in the interview last week. “Not to mention, of course, her commitment to issues that are well beyond LGBTQ issues.”

The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.

Image courtesy of U.S. House of Representatives

3 thoughts on “Balint’s State of the Union guest pick highlights former Vermont state representative

  1. Well of course she would bring lippert as it was all about the lgbqrst faction that fronted the money FTX didn’t. Picking political hacks because of their gender/pronouns has worked out so well /s
    just look at the potato heads admin a flock of incompetent misfits all picked for their gender and pronouns with no knowledge of the position they were plopped in.

    • It only works until it doesn’t. We are now in the stage of “How bad does it get before something is done”. It is actually unbelievable how badly managed this country has become.
      And yet we have idiots like Balint elected to represent Vermont in the House.
      Although there is the historical clown moron communist Bernie Sanders as well, but I digress…

      • Yup we are nearing 3rd world status and the dollar is falling while the rubble climbs. The founding fathers would be jumping out of their graves and going for the muskets.

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