BOSTON — As the Register went to press July 14, the Massachusetts Supreme Court was expected to declare the state's matrimony laws to be discriminatory for not allowing homosexual couples to marry.
With the decision, the commonwealth would become the first state to recognize marriages between two people of the same sex.
“It has always been the role of the courts in our system of government to say when a law draws the wrong line,” said Mary Bonauto, an attorney for the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. She argued the case on behalf of seven same-sex couples.
“Only ‘marriage’ conveys the love and commitment that others automatically understand and respect. … Equal marriage rights would strengthen these families and the communities of which they are an integral part,” Bonauto said.
But Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, said such a decision could wreak havoc on the future of the American family.
“Americans want our laws to send a positive message to children about marriage, family and their future,” Daniels said.
He said a pro-homosexual marriage decision in Massachusetts, “with legal consequences for our entire nation, would dramatically confirm that the Federal Marriage Amendment is the only way to allow the American people to determine the future of marriage and the family under American law,” he said.
He added that U.S. cardinals and the Vatican have supported an amendment to the Constitution that would define marriage in the United States as only between one man and one woman.
“The Pontifical Council for the Family has said that judicial efforts to destroy marriage as the union of male and female are contrary to the common good and truly unjust,” Daniels said. “This is why my friend Cardinal [Anthony] Bevilacqua has joined with Cardinal [Edward] Egan, Cardinal [Francis] George and scores of bishops in endorsing the Federal Marriage Amendment.”
Family groups were prepared to lam-baste the ruling. Genevieve Wood, spokeswoman for the Family Research Council, noted that government's role is to recognize, not change, marriage.
“Marriage is an institution which no court has the authority to redefine, and yet, left unchecked, that is exactly what they are attempting to do,” Wood said. “We have three separate coequal branches of government in this country. The White House and Congress must not let our nation's court system run amok with no accountability.”
She noted that homosexual activists used the courts because they couldn't win at the ballot box.
“Time and time again, in states like California and Hawaii, when the people of this country have voted on the issue of creating same-sex marriage, the answer has been a resounding No,” Wood said. “The Massachusetts Supreme Court must refrain from overriding the will of the people and should base its forthcoming decision solely on the Constitution.”
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., announced his opposition to same-sex marriages in an interview with the Washington Post.
“I do not support [same-sex] marriage … it's just a personal belief about what the relationship of marriage is and how it works, but I'm in favor of civil unions,” Kerry said. “I've supported all forms of partnership union. I think gays should have all of the rights of ownership, of partnership, of visitation in hospitals, of inheritance and so forth.”
“Marriage is an institution between men and women for the purpose of having children and procreating,” he said. “That's my belief, and some people may not like it. I've been willing to take my lumps on everything that I think enhances people's rights and gives people equality, but I think there is something special about the institution of marriage — the oldest institution in the world.”
Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for National Review, said it would only be a matter of time before same-sex marriage reached the Supreme Court.
“The Massachusetts decision is going to increase the pressure on politicians to support a Federal Marriage Amendment,” he said. “Because if they can do this in Massachusetts, they can do it anywhere.”
And like other conservatives, Ponnuru doesn't believe the federal Defense of Marriage Act will stand up to a constitutional challenge.
“Congress can regulate the status of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution,” Ponnuru said.
But he noted that the Supreme Court in 1995 overturned a Colorado referendum that prohibited special status and privileges to homosexuals. The court's reasoning was that the amendment was passed with “animus” toward homosexuals.
“The Supreme Court could strike down marriage laws for any number of reasons: depriving people of equal protection, ‘animus’ toward gays or due process,” he said.
Robert George, professor of political philosophy at Princeton University, said it is possible citizens in Massachusetts won't let the decision stand.
“When the Hawaii Supreme Court sought to redefine marriage in that state, the people responded by amending their state constitution to overturn the court's ruling. Hawaii, like Massachusetts, is a liberal state,” George noted. “It is possible that the citizens of Massachusetts will respond in the same way.”
But George said only one thing would settle the matter and ultimately protect marriage.
“I hope that the people of the United States as a whole will respond by enacting the Federal Marriage Amendment,” he said, “to protect marriage as a union of a man and a woman from judicial redefinition.”
Joshua Mercer writes from Washington, D.C.