MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — When Lois Farnham and Holly Puterbaugh were joined in civil union 10 years ago Thursday, some of their friends didn’t come for fear they’d lose their jobs, and the church asked that plainclothes police officers attend the ceremony in case there was trouble.

A decade later, Vermont and four other states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa, as well as the District of Columbia — have instituted full marriage for same-sex couples, and the Burlington couple say many people view their relationship as “ho-hum.”

Vermont was the first jurisdiction in the country to offer most of the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. Massachusetts instituted full same-sex marriage in 2004 in response to a state court’s order. Last year, Vermont’s Legislature became the first to approve full marriage for those couples without a court’s prompting.

“At the time, civil unions were so radical,” Farnham said this week. “Now it’s the fallback, conservative issue.”

In addition to the five same-sex marriage states, five others— California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and New Jersey — have broad domestic partnership or civil union laws similar to what Vermont passed in 2000, according to Freedom to Marry, a national group that advocates full marriage for same-sex couples.

But there’s been plenty of push-back as well.

Thirty states have amended their constitutions to define marriage as occurring solely between men and women, or allowing their legislatures to do so, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“That suggests there’s really a stronger movement in a sense for the defense of marriage than for the redefinition of marriage,” said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Washington-based Family Research Council, which opposes gay marriages and civil unions.

Sprigg and other opponents cited recent victories like the reversal by voters in California of a court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and the reversal by Maine voters of that state’s gay-marriage law.

“This cultural battle over the definition of marriage is one that is going to be a long-term battle and struggle that we will encounter for years to come,” said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law.”

In Vermont, those on both sides of the issue say the political atmosphere around same-sex unions has changed nearly 180 degrees over the past decade.

In 2000, opponents hung signs on fence posts and barn sides along rural roads saying, “Take Back Vermont.” Then-Gov. Howard Dean’s state police security detail persuaded him to wear a bulletproof vest to some public appearances, where, after he signed civil unions into law, he heard jeers laced with expletives.

An Associated Press exit poll taken on Election Day that year found 49 percent on each side of the question.

But by 2004, the AP exit poll asked voters whether they preferred civil unions, full marriage for same-sex couples or neither. Forty percent chose marriage; 37 percent favored civil unions and 21 percent opposed either.

When the Legislature passed the same-sex marriage law in 2009, overcoming Republican Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto with two-thirds majorities in both Senate and House, opposition had cooled.

Beth Robinson, a lawyer and leader of Vermont Freedom to Marry, said Vermonters were now accustomed to the idea of gay couples living in their midst. No one could point to discernible harm to traditional marriages, or Vermont becoming a magnet for gays and lesbians.

“All the things people feared if civil unions passed hadn’t come to pass,” Robinson said.

Puterbaugh said with growing acceptance, gay and lesbian couples have become “so much a part of fabric of this state that they’re no longer scared by it.”

Craig Bensen, head of the group Take It To The People, which opposed both the civil unions and gay marriage bills and unsuccessfully called for a statewide referendum on civil unions and later gay marriage, attributed the change in mood to a different cause.

Bensen has maintained for a decade that lawmakers were ignoring the will of the people. By 2004, “there was this numbness going on. If there’s nothing you can do about it you tend to accept it. Being politically powerless made it less of an issue,” he said.

Stan Baker was the lead plaintiff in a December 1999 state Supreme Court order saying to deny marriage or marriage-like rights to same-sex couples violated the state Constitution. That prompted the 2000 civil unions legislation.

Baker said more work remains to be done. Federal law does not recognize Baker and his partner, Peter Harrigan as a couple. That means if the 64-year-old Baker, who is 15 years older than Harrigan, dies first, Harrigan won’t be able to collect Social Security survivor benefits as he would if he were the surviving spouse in a heterosexual marriage.

Baker predicted coming legal battles will seek “to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples.”

For Farnham and Puterbaugh, 65 and 64 and both retired, the focus this weekend will be gathering with friends for a party celebrating both the 10th anniversary of their civil union and the Fourth of July. Then, Sept. 1, they’ll celebrate again, this time marking the first anniversary of their wedding on the first day Vermont’s same-sex marriage law took effect.

“Any excuse for a party,” Farnham said with a laugh.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.