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Mass. makes history, issues licenses to same-sex couples

BOSTON (BP)–Same-sex “marriage” was legalized in Massachusetts May 17, marking the first time in U.S. history that a state issued marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

The action was a direct result of a controversial court ruling from last November, when in a 4-3 decision the Massachusetts’ high court said the state’s marriage laws violated the state constitution. The court stayed its decision for 180 days.

Same-sex couples hope that the marriage licenses will help legitimatize homosexuality in America. Conservatives and traditionalists fear that the licenses will be used in federal court to legalize same-sex “marriage” nationally.

“The sacred institution of marriage,” President Bush said in a statement issued by the White House, “should not be redefined by a few activist judges. All Americans have a right to be heard in this debate. I called on the Congress to pass and to send to the states for ratification an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. The need for that amendment is still urgent, and I repeat that call today.”

“Years from now, we hope this won’t be a big deal,” Joan Williams, who received a marriage licenses in Northampton, Mass., told the Associated Press. “But to us, today is a big deal. This is just a legal affirmation and protection for our family.”

A new poll conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide for the Alliance for Marriage may support Bush’s stance. It showed that 67 percent of Americans favor the Federal Marriage Amendment currently before the Senate. Incredibly, 57 percent say they “strongly” favor it. The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted in April.

Tanya McCloskey, 52, and Marcia Kadish, 56 — two Massachusetts residents — may have been the first to exchange vows. At 9:15 a.m. Eastern time, a Cambridge city clerk told them: “I now pronounce you married under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Chris McCary, 43, and John Sullivan, 37 -– both of Alabama — also received a marriage license.

“This is the most important day of my life,” McCary told the AP.

Pro-family leaders warn that without a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution, such ceremonies eventually will be performed nationwide.

Same-sex “marriage” supporters hope to use the licenses in federal court to try and strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriages.” At least 38 states have “mini” defense of marriage acts explicitly banning same-sex “marriage.”

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said he believes that lawsuits in 30-40 states could be filed by the end of the summer, seeking to legalize same-sex “marriage” nationwide.

“There is going to be mass litigation, which is going to equate to mass confusion,” Sekulow said on his radio program. “… If there was ever a time for congressional action, this is it.”

Although Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had said couples should sign a form swearing they were state residents or that they were moving to the state, clerks in Provincetown and other localities were giving marriage licenses to out-of-state couples.

Events in Massachusetts already may have affected one state — Rhode Island. Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch issued a statement May 17 saying that his state would “recognize any marriage validly performed in another state unless doing so would run contrary to the strong public policy of this State.” Lynch said the only types of marriages that are void in the state “involve bigamy, incest or mental incompetence or marriages in which one or both parties never intended to be married.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called May 17 “a day that will live in moral infamy.”

“The attacks on Pearl Harbor, New York, and Washington awakened the nation to peril and called citizens to action,” Mohler wrote in his Crosswalk.com commentary. “That must happen once again, as millions of Americans must now awaken to the fact that an out-of-control judiciary and an army of social engineers are forcing their will upon us.

“If the Massachusetts decision is allowed to stand, this nation faces nothing less than moral disaster. America is now a nation at war with itself, and with marriage.”

Following the ruling, Massachusetts’ legislators passed a state amendment in March that would ban same-sex “marriage” while legalizing civil unions. But in order for it to make its way into the constitution, it must pass another session of the legislature before going to voters, which would be 2006 at the earliest. Pro-family leaders fear that by 2006, the outrage at same-sex “marriage” will have passed.

The ruling has led other states to examine their marriage laws.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal issued an opinion saying same-sex “marriage” is not legal in his state, although he declined to address the question of whether Massachusetts’ same-sex “marriages” should be recognized in Connecticut. Blumenthal said that decision is for the legislature and the courts to decide.

The ruling by the Massachusetts high court has led to a backlash in many ways nationally. Six state legislatures have put state constitutional marriage amendments on the ballot for a fall vote, and other state legislatures likely will follow.

The U.S. House and Senate are considering a federal marriage amendment that would protect the traditional definition of marriage within the U.S. Constitution.

Pro-family leaders support state amendments but argue that a federal amendment is the only way to protect the traditional definition of marriage in the long term. State amendments can be struck down in federal court, whereas federal amendments are binding on both federal and state courts. Nebraska’s marriage amendment is being challenged in federal court.

But passing a federal amendment isn’t easy. It requires the approval of two-thirds of both the House and Senate and three-quarters of the states.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

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  • Michael Foust