MONTPELIER, Vt. -- The cry for a nuclear arms freeze that echoed across Vermont this week reached into the Statehouse Wednesday as lawmakers were asked to join thousands of fellow citizens urging national leaders to halt the deadly stockpiling.
Town Meeting voters in 156 towns and cities endorsed a resolution urging the United States to propose to the Soviet Union a freeze on development, production and deployment of atomic weapons and the systems that deliver them.
Twenty-one other communities rejected the proposal.
Combined with towns that voted at their 1981 Town Meeting, 170 communities -- almost 70 percent of the communities in the state -- are on record in favor the arms freeze.
That vote, viewed by jubilant peace activists as a grass-roots mandate, prompted the introduction Wednesday of a legislative resolution asking the congressional delegation to carry the arms freeze message to the White House.
'We're responding to what seems to be an overwhelming wish of Vermont,' said House Democratic Leader Judith Stephany, D-Burlington.
She noted Vermont has set the tone for other states to follow in the field of environmental protection and could do the same for peace.
'States watch each other,' she said. 'We're hoping they will follow our precedent.'
'The impact is partially symbolic,' said Rep. Althea Kroger, D-Essex. 'But there's no question our congressional delegation -- our senators -- have a mandate.'
But the resolution will face opposition in a Legislature often reluctant to intrude upon federal prerogatives by adopting symbolic resolutions telling Congress what to do.
'I don't think we should be involved in this,' said Rep. Wallace Russell, R-Barton. 'We have no business discussing the matter at Town Meetings or in the House.
'What happens should be up to Washington.'
'You can't think of anything better for the Kremlin -- they must be smiling,' added conservative Sen. Madeline Harwood,' R-Bennington County, a vocal critic of the arms freeze resolution.
Aides said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told the Senate Wednesday he planned to personally deliver the resolution to President Reagan and Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
The organizers of the campaign vowed to continue their efforts.
'The nuclear freeze campaign did not begin with the Vermont Town Meeting vote and it will not end with it,' said David McCauley of Putney, an organizer with the American Friends Service Committee, which spearheaded the drive.