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Bay Staters Want to Have Their Say on Marriage
BY GAIL BESSEREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
BOSTON — Democratic leaders are
putting intense pressure on Massachusetts lawmakers to keep voters from
deciding a proposed marriage protection amendment that carries national
The Massachusetts Marriage Amendment
defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It passed two required votes in the state
legislature earlier this year. It needs another legislative vote at the next
Constitutional Convention. If adopted by at least 50 of the 200 legislators this time, the amendment would go on the statewide ballot for all citizens to
consider in November 2008.
The measure could end the state’s
distinction of being the only one that allows same-sex “marriage,” and is
poised to export it to others.
“Unfortunately, the political
leadership is willing to go to the mat to deny people the right of due
process,” said Lisa Barstow, spokeswoman for VoteOnMarriage.org, the coalition
backing the amendment.
A June 14 legislative showdown is looming.
Because defenders of marriage
believe they will prevail with 57 votes, opponents are pressuring lawmakers to
switch votes. “We can’t afford to lose here,” said Arline Isaacson of the Gay
and Lesbian Political Caucus.
A May 17 Boston Globe
article suggested that support for the amendment is waning.
“Nothing could be further from the
truth,” said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute,
which is spearheading VoteOnMarriage.org.
The Globe reported
that Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean offered to join the fray against the
measure. The article’s headline announced: “Legislative Support Slim for
Same-Sex Marriage Ban,” but gave only anonymous sources and activists’ claims
to substantiate this.
Mineau said “there’s been a sudden
influx of $750,000 overnight to conduct a four-week, all-out media blitz
The public relations campaign will
feature pricey 30-second television slots run by the activist group
MassEquality, which also has at least 14 full-time paid lobbyists working
against the amendment. Spokesman Marc Solomon said the ads will argue that
marriage is a civil rights issue that should not be subject to a popular vote.
Dan Avila, policy director for the
Massachusetts Catholic Conference, countered that claim.
“It’s not true that ‘civil rights
are not to be put to a vote,’” said Avila. “Every time we vote on a ballot
question, we affect someone’s rights under civil law.”
Says the amendment: “When
recognizing marriages entered into after the adoption of this amendment by the
people, the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall define marriage
only as the union of one man and one woman.”
In 2003, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,
who is now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote: “The Church teaches that respect for
homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or
to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws
recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary
unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the
same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior,
with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would
also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.
The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women
and for the good of society itself” (Considerations Regarding Proposals To
Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons, No. 11).
The proposed amendment has already
withstood a 2006 challenge to its legality. However, this did not stop Attorney
General Martha Coakley in May from terming it “hate” and vowing to challenge it
again should it succeed.
Lawmakers who support the amendment
“are under incredible pressure to cave in,” Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said
May 11 on his blog (CardinalSeansBlog.com). “Right now, people are not talking
about what is at stake,” the cardinal said, but rather “reducing a very
important human issue to political slogans and coercion.”
Gov. Deval Patrick has made no
secret of coercing lawmakers to kill the measure, even if it means they would
deny citizens the right to amend the constitution by refusing to address the
He also intends to repeal a law that
prohibits out-of-state couples from marrying if they would be ineligible to wed
in their own state. Patrick said he wants to keep the measure off the ballot
“rather than turn Massachusetts into a political circus for a national debate
over something which is largely settled here.”
However, a record-breaking 170,000
signatures were collected in 2005 in support of the amendment. All four
Massachusetts bishops signed a letter which they sent to each legislator. It
noted that a recent Suffolk University poll showed that two-thirds of registered
Massachusetts voters want action on the amendment.
The bishops have regularly urged
people to remind lawmakers that voters have been denied a say in this debate.
A 2003 ruling by the state Supreme
Judicial Court paved the way for marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex
couples, but the Legislature never actually changed the marriage statute to
legalize same-sex “marriages.” A bill filed by the homosexual “marriage” lobby
and now pending seeks to do this if the amendment fails.
Meanwhile in New York, Gov. Eliot
Spitzer recently introduced legislation that would eliminate gender from the
legal definition of marriage. In Connecticut, the state Supreme Court May 14
heard oral arguments in a case seeking to legalize same-sex “marriage.”
With the help of the Boston-based
lay political action group Catholic Citizenship, the Diocese of Fall River has
undertaken a prayer drive for God’s protection on marriage. Father Samuel
Leonard, the group’s spiritual adviser, asked for special Masses and hours of
Eucharistic adoration. He encouraged Catholics to offer sacrifices and
“intercede with God for his divine intervention and that his good will is
Bea Martins, a Catholic Citizenship
lay leader, said, “We’ll continue to focus on prayer, because this will be won
only with God’s help.”
Gail Besse writes from Boston.