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Mass. gov. & AG at odds after legislature passes amendment

BOSTON (BP)–Massachusetts legislators passed a compromise constitutional amendment March 29 that would ban same-sex “marriage” while legalizing civil unions, completing step one of a lengthy three-step process.

The amendment, passed three times, with a final vote of 105-92, must be passed again in the next legislative session before going to voters, which would be 2006 at the earliest. That would be some two years after the Massachusetts court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage” takes effect in mid-May.

Republican Gov. Mitt Romney said he would ask the court to delay its decision until the process was complete, but Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, a Democrat, said he would not seek such a delay. Reilly said that while he opposes the court’s decision, Romney’s arguments aren’t valid in light of the fact the court has ruled twice for same-sex “marriage.”

Reilly’s decision creates a dilemma, because state law says the governor can be represented only by the attorney general, The Boston Globe reported.

Nevertheless, Romney addressed the state after the vote.

“If we begin providing for same-sex marriages on May 17,” he said, “as ordered by the court, and then our citizens choose to limit marriage to a man and woman by their vote in November 2006, we will have created a good deal of confusion during the period in between — for the couples involved, for our state, for other states where couples may have moved and for the children of these families.”

Romney’s office is believed to be considering other options, including issuing an executive order telling clerks not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The compromise amendment pleased neither side entirely but had its strongest opposition from supporters of same-sex “marriage.”

“Don’t take away peoples’ rights,” Rep. Marie St. Fleur, a Democrat and a same-sex “marriage” supporter, said. “It does not harm you to have another set of individuals be recognized…. Gay marriage does not harm my marriage.”

But Rep. Philip Travis, a Democrat, disagreed.

“[Same-sex ‘marriage’] will outlaw Father’s Day and Mother’s Day in our schools,” he said, adding that children will be taught that their parents’ and grandparents’ view of marriage was wrong.

“I do not step back and apologize to anyone because I stand for traditional marriage. That is my moral upbringing. I need not use a religion to use that argument.”

In a classic example of political strategizing, the final vote saw several cases of vote-switching. Some same-sex “marriage” supporters actually voted for the amendment the first two times so as to defeat other amendments they considered more objectionable. They then voted against it the third time. Likewise, some conservative legislators voted against it the first two times but for it on the third reading because it was the only remaining option.

St. Fleur voted for it the first two times before voting against it the third time, while Travis voted against it the first two times before voting for it on the final vote.

The amendment passed initially 116-81 before passing a second time on a 111-86 vote. If it had failed on the third and final vote, the issue would have been shelved until next year.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said it was a “frustrating day” for backers of traditional marriage.

“Legislators know the people want to vote on the definition of marriage but instead of giving them a ‘clean bill,’ they are forcing them to pass civil unions at the same time,” Perkins said in a statement. “That is nothing short of blackmail. The debate over the definition of marriage in the Bay State has gone round and round and, in the end, the majority of legislators abdicated their responsibility by straddling the fence trying to have it both ways. That is not leadership.”

Some supporters of same-sex “marriage” quoted former President John Adams, who was involved in the writing of the Massachusetts constitution that was used by the state high court in its controversial ruling.

Travis, though, said such arguments are ridiculous.

“We weren’t there,” he said. “We know what marriage was in 1780. It was the marriage of one man and one woman. Our founding fathers had no idea this would ever be discussed.”

Sen. Minority Leader Brian P. Lees, a Republican, supported the amendment.

“To those folks that believe very strongly that marriage in this commonwealth should be between a man and a woman, they will have the opportunity to vote on that,” he said.

Others, though, weren’t so upbeat. Some legislators sought but failed to have the amendment split in two — one part banning same-sex “marriage” and the other part legalizing civil unions — so that voters could decide each question individually.

Rep. Viriato deMacedo, a Republican, favored splitting the amendment.

Otherwise, he said, “It would be akin to saying to these people, ‘You want to vote for John Kerry for president? No problem, you can vote for John Kerry, but you’ve got to vote for George Bush at the same time….’ We are giving the people a false choice. We’re saying, ‘You want one thing? No problem, you can vote to define marriage between a man and a woman, but the only way you can do it is if you create civil unions entirely the same as marriage.”

The amendment, which includes additional language added March 29 to clarify its intent, reads:

“The unified purpose of this Article is both to define the institution of civil marriage and to establish civil unions to provide same-sex persons with entirely the same benefits, protections, rights, privileges and obligations as are afforded to married persons, while recognizing that under present federal law same-sex persons in civil unions will be denied federal benefits available to married persons.

“It being the public policy of this commonwealth to protect the unique relationship of marriage, only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in the commonwealth. Two persons of the same sex shall have the right to form a civil union if they otherwise meet the requirements set forth by law for marriage. Civil unions for same sex persons are established by this Article and shall provide entirely the same benefits, protections, rights, privileges and obligations that are afforded to persons married under the law of the commonwealth. All laws applicable to marriage shall also apply to civil unions.

“This Article is self-executing, but the general court may enact laws not inconsistent with anything herein contained to carry out the purpose of this Article.”
For more information about the debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

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  • Michael Foust