BOSTON (BP)–Massachusetts’ new attorney general said May 11 she would help fight to prevent a constitutional marriage amendment from going into effect if supporters are successful in passing it.
Democrat Martha Coakley, who took office in January, made the remarks to a gathering of the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association, The Boston Globe reported. The amendment still must pass the legislature — where supporters say they have the votes — and then be approved by voters in 2008. If it makes it that far, Coakley said, she’ll join opponents in any legal action taken to keep it out of the state constitution.
The proposed amendment essentially would reverse a landmark 2003 decision by the state high court legalizing “gay marriage.” That ruling took effect in May 2004.
“I think we can easily anticipate that if the proposed amendment was successful, there would be protracted, hard-fought litigation about the constitutionality of such a provision,” she was quoted as saying to the attorneys. “If that battle is necessary, you have my support.”
Coakley also added her voice to the chorus of opponents who are pressuring lawmakers to defeat the amendment and keep it off the ballot. The proposal needs approval by only one-fourth — that is, 50 — legislators. Backers say they have at least 57 votes. The legislature could consider the amendment in a constitutional convention this summer.
“We must do everything we can to avoid this…. We want our future to progress, not regress,” Coakley said, according to The Globe. “And it is why we want to try and ensure that when the Legislature reconvenes, it rejects this anti-gay, anti-marriage amendment. It can and should do it on the merits and end this debate once and for all.”
In response, Kris Mineau, amendment supporter and president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, noted that the former attorney general, Democrat Tom Reilly, approved the language of the amendment and that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court — the highest court in the state — unanimously upheld Reilly’s decision in a ruling last July. Homosexual activists had sued Reilly, arguing that the Massachusetts constitution prevents constitutional amendments from reversing rulings by the state high court — an argument the seven justices rejected.
“Making political hay before like-minded advocates on a measure that has yet to be vetted by the legislature and the people smacks of a kind of advocacy that does not reflect due process and the rights of all the citizens Attorney General Coakley has been elected to serve,” Mineau said in a statement. “The attorney general has injected a level of personal bias into her professional role and that is inappropriate for a constitutional officer of the commonwealth.”
The amendment received a record 170,000 signatures to qualify it for legislative consideration. It passed the legislature during the last session, on Jan. 2, and must pass once more.
MR. AND MR. SMITH? — How should a formal letter being sent to a “gay marriage” couple be addressed? Such never-before-thought-of questions are being asked nowadays in Massachusetts, and that particular one was the subject of an “Etiquette At Work” column by Peter Post in The Boston Globe May 13.
“With same-sex couples where one person has taken the last name of the other, the form is: Mr. John Doe and Mr. Samuel Doe, or Mr. John and Mr. Samuel Doe,” Post wrote. “The formal salutation would be ‘Dear Mr. John Doe and Mr. Samuel Doe.’ With couples where both people have kept their last names, the form is: Mr. John Doe and Mr. Samuel Smith. The formal salutation would be ‘Dear Mr. John Doe and Mr. Samuel Smith.’ In either case, remember to write both names on one line on the envelope to acknowledge their status as a married couple.”
ORE. GROUPS FIGHTING NEW HOMOSEXUAL LAWS — Conservatives in Oregon say they will work to refer two recently signed “gay rights” bills to voters. One of the new laws legalizes domestic partnerships, which grant homosexual couples all the state legal benefits of marriage. The other law bans discrimination based on “sexual orientation” in housing, public accommodations and the workplace. Conservatives say both laws — which were signed by Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski — violate religious freedoms, and that the domestic partnerships law violates at least the spirit of Measure 36, the constitutional marriage amendment that passed with 56 percent of the vote in 2004.
Former state Sen. Marylin Shannon, a Republican, will help lead the effort, the Associated Press reported. The coalition must gather at least 55,000 valid signatures for each referring effort within 90 days after the legislature adjourns, AP said. If successful, then voters will be able to decide whether they want to overturn the laws.
“We already know where our supporters are,” Shannon told AP. “We have the addresses of 126,000 households of people who signed the petition to put the gay marriage ban on the 2004 ballot.”
A spokeswoman for Basic Rights Oregon, a homosexual activist group, said she believes the coalition likely will be successful in placing the issues before voters.