"Compromise" gay marriage ban in Mass.
By Jessica Rothenberg | April 2, 2004 | Page 2
THE MASSACHUSETTS legislature voted again earlier this week in favor of an amendment to the state constitution that bans gay marriage. Lawmakers had approved the ban by a narrow margin on March 11.
Its sponsors, Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas Finneran--both Democrats--claimed that their proposal was a "compromise" because it would allow same-sex civil unions. But that wasn't enough for Travaglini.
The amendment passed again on March 29 with one revision--new language specifying that gay couples in civil unions wouldn't get the same benefits provided under federal law to married couples. This proves what supporters of gay marriage have said all along--that unions are both separate and unequal.
Some 300 people turned out by 7:30 a.m. to show their support for gay marriage as lawmakers arrived for the constitutional session. When anti-gay demonstrators showed up, the two sides faced off--as they have several times since Massachusetts politicians decided to overturn two decisions by the state's Supreme Judicial Court that declared a previous gay marriage ban unconstitutional and opened the way for same-sex marriages.
The gay marriage ban amendment will be voted on again by the legislature in 2005, and then go to voters in a ballot referendum a year later. So the struggle to defend gay marriage is just beginning.
The next crucial date is May 17, when the state is under orders from the Supreme Judicial Court to begin distributing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The constitutional amendment will have no effect on this order since it can't take effect until it passes a referendum.
State officials have begun preparations to follow the order. But Republican Gov. Mitt Romney and his Democratic allies on the question of gay marriage have made it clear that they plan to do everything in their power to stop any licenses from being issued to gay couples.
Supporters of gay marriage can't afford to hope that Romney will abide by the high court decision--or even that the Supreme Judicial Court will withstand the pressure to back down and stop gay marriage licenses from being issued. Activists in Boston have formed the Equal Marriage Action Network, an activist group dedicated to defending gay marriage through grassroots organizing.
After a successful kickoff meeting, we are organizing a panel discussion with local activists--and planning a demonstration for May 17. It's time to stop trusting politicians to do the right thing--and to start demanding that they give gays and lesbians equal rights.
Contact the Equal Marriage Action Network by e-mailing [email protected] for more information.