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Mass. legislators set Sept. 14 to consider marriage amend.

BOSTON (BP)–Massachusetts legislators will meet Sept. 14 to consider a constitutional marriage amendment that pleases neither conservatives nor liberals, but one that nonetheless would undo a ruling that made the Bay State the first to legalize “gay marriage.”

The September date for the constitutional convention was set by legislators during an Aug. 24 session. The amendment, which would ban “gay marriage” while legalizing Vermont-style civil unions, passed once last year and must pass again if it is to appear on the ballot in 2006.

But its passage this year is in serious doubt. A handful of legislators who voted for the amendment lost in the last election, and a few more who voted for it the first time now say they oppose it. The new speaker of the house favors “gay marriage.” Last year’s speaker opposed such unions.

In addition, conservative groups are working to defeat the amendment in hopes of advancing a more attractive one. A conservative coalition named VoteOnMarriage.org has launched a petition drive with the goal of placing its own marriage amendment on the 2008 ballot. It would ban “gay marriage” while avoiding the issue of civil unions altogether.

Kristian Mineau, president of the conservative Massachusetts Family Institute, says the current amendment before the legislature is unacceptable. It is known as the Travaglini-Lees amendment, named for its sponsors.

“That amendment would ask voters to affirm heterosexual marriage and homosexual civil unions with one vote,” Mineau told Baptist Press. “We liken that to asking people to vote for John Kerry and George Bush on the same ticket. It’s not right. It’s not fair. It’s not a clear up-or-down vote.

“Our strategy, first and foremost, is to defeat it,” he added.

The Travaglini-Lees amendment was a compromise that passed the legislature last March on a 105-92 vote, barely more than the 101 votes required. It passed weeks before the May 17 date that “gay marriage” was set to become legal, and many conservatives supported it because it was the only option. Other amendments — including one that left civil unions unaddressed — failed to pass.

Conservatives had hoped the amendment’s initial passage would persuade the Massachusetts high court to delay its ruling legalizing “gay marriage” from taking effect until the amendment process was complete. The court, though, refused. It had issued the ruling in November 2003 and stayed it for six months.

Now that the Travaglini-Lees amendment isn’t the only amendment option, some conservatives are abandoning their support. Of course, homosexual activist groups are campaigning against it. A statement on the Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus’ website Aug. 25 noted: “While support for this amendment has eroded, don’t be fooled: It remains the real and immediate threat.”

At the same time, homosexual activists are hoping to keep the VoteOnMarriage.org amendment off the ballot. Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, a Democrat, has until Sept. 7 to certify the initiative so supporters can begin gathering petitions, The Boston Globe reported. The Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus and several dozen lawyers are asking Reilly to rule the initiative unconstitutional, saying the state constitution prevents ballot questions from reversing judicial rulings, The Globe reported. Conservatives call the argument nonsense. But if Reilly rules against the initiative, it could prompt conservatives to change their mind and back the Travaglini-Lees amendment.

The amendment would require approximately 66,000 signatures, and then approval by 25 percent of the legislature in two consecutive sessions before appearing on the 2008 ballot.

While Massachusetts is the only state to recognize “gay marriage,” that could change soon. Washington state’s Supreme Court is expected to issue a “gay marriage” decision any week now. In addition, “gay marriage” lawsuits are pending in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, California, Oklahoma and Florida.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust