BOSTON (BP)–The Massachusetts legislature delivered a setback to defenders of marriage July 12 by postponing for four months a vote on a constitutional amendment to protect the institution.
Meanwhile, in a court decision the same day, a Connecticut judge rejected the efforts of homosexual couples to force the state to grant them marriage licenses. Superior Court Judge Patty Jenkins Pittman ruled that the state legislature did not act unconstitutionally in legalizing civil unions instead of marriage for homosexuals.
In Massachusetts, a joint session of the legislature went into recess without voting on the Protection of Marriage Amendment. The Senate and House members voted 100-91 to recess as a Constitutional Convention until Nov. 9, two days after the election, The Boston Globe reported.
The legislative delay came only two days after the state’s Supreme Judicial Court handed amendment supporters a win by ruling unanimously that the proposal could appear on the ballot if the legislature approves it. Only 25 percent of the legislature must vote for the amendment in two consecutive sessions in order to place the proposal on the ballot. Amendment advocates, who are hoping to have the initiative before voters in 2008, said they obtained 170,000 signatures, nearly three times the number required, to place the proposal on the ballot.
Amendment supporters expressed dismay at the delay.
“Tens of thousands of citizens have petitioned the government for the right to have their voices heard,” said Gov. Mitt Romney, an amendment supporter, according to The Globe. “They have played by the rules. This issue won’t go away until the people are heard.”
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, called the move a “flagrant disregard for the will of the people.” Mineau said in a written statement, “The legislative leadership today has made the birthplace of American democracy its new graveyard.”
“Same-sex marriage” advocates applauded the action.
“We now have four more months to show legislators how well marriage equality is working in Massachusetts,” said Marc Solomon, campaign director of MassEquality, which opposes the amendment. “We hope they will see that Massachusetts is ready to move on.”
The Supreme Judicial Court legalized “gay marriage” in 2003. Massachusetts remains the only state to have legitimized marriage between people of the same sex.
Meeting in Constitutional Convention, the legislature debated four and a half hours but managed to proceed through only half of the 21 items on its agenda, The Globe reported. The marriage amendment was 20th on the list, according to the newspaper.
The amendment defines marriage “only as the union of one man and one woman.” It would prohibit future “gay marriages” but not those that have occurred since the Massachusetts high court legalized such same-sex unions. Amendment advocates feared a stricter proposal would fail a court challenge and might face difficulty in the liberal legislature. The amendment does not take a position on homosexual civil unions.
Twenty states have passed marriage protection amendments with an average of 71 percent of the vote in favor. Six more states -– Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin –- are set to vote this year on such amendments. Two more states, Arizona and Colorado, also could consider marriage amendments in November if they gain the signatures necessary.
In Connecticut, Jenkins Pittman ruled that the state legislature did not unlawfully discriminate against homosexual couples by establishing civil unions in 2005.
“Civil union and marriage in Connecticut now share the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law,” she wrote, according to the Associated Press. “The Connecticut Constitution requires that there be equal protection and due process of law, not that there be equivalent nomenclature for such protection and process.”
The eight same-sex couples who brought suit said they plan to appeal the decision, AP reported.