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Q&A: What happened in Mass. & could it spread nationally?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–With Massachusetts now the only state legally to recognize same-sex “marriage,” the movement to legalize it nationally begins. Following is a list of common questions, with answers.

— How does this impact the rest of the country?

Same-sex couples “married” in Massachusetts now have stronger legal grounds to sue in federal court and ask that their marriage licenses be recognized elsewhere.

In addition, a lawsuit could take place in a state court where justices may be inclined to issue a favorable ruling — for instance, in New Jersey, which is known to have one of the nation’s more liberal high courts.

Either way, same-sex “marriage” could spread far beyond Massachusetts.

— Could this lead to same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states?

Many experts believe it could. In order for same-sex “marriage” to spread nationally, a 1996 law known as the Defense of Marriage Act must be struck down. That law, passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Clinton, prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriage.” The law also gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriages.”

— Why would a federal court strike down the Defense of Marriage Act?

Same-sex “marriage” supporters argue that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. That clause states that “full faith and credit” must be given in each state to the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings” of every other state. If the court equates marriage licenses with “public acts” and “records,” then the Defense of Marriage Act is in danger.

One lawsuit already has been filed against the law — this one in a federal court in Florida. More lawsuits figure to follow.

— So, can anything be done to stop the momentum?

Conservatives and traditionalists are pushing for the passage of a federal marriage amendment that would protect the traditional definition of marriage within the U.S. Constitution. Both the House and Senate are considering such amendments. An amendment must pass two-thirds of the House and Senate and be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

If passed and ratified, then Massachusetts’ same-sex “marriages” would be void.

— What can be done on the state level to stop the spread of same-sex “marriage”?

Several states are considering adding marriage amendments to their respective constitutions. While such amendments protect against the rulings of state high courts, they nevertheless can be struck down in federal court. Nebraska’s marriage amendment is being challenged in federal court.

— Is Massachusetts the only place in the world to legalize same-sex “marriage”?

No. Same-sex “marriage” is also legal in the countries of Belgium and the Netherlands, along with the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

— How did Massachusetts get to this point?

Last November, the state’s high court, called the Supreme Judicial Court, ruled that the state’s laws on marriage were unconstitutional and that same-sex “marriage” had to be legalized. The court stayed its decision for 180 days, and that stay expired May 17.

— Why did same-sex “marriage” advocates target Massachusetts?

Massachusetts was unique for several reasons. First, it was one of only about a dozen states with no law explicitly banning same-sex “marriage.” Second, its court is rather liberal and has ruled in favor of homosexual issues for several years now. Third, the state’s constitutional amendment process is rather lengthy and takes some two years to complete.

When courts in Alaska and Hawaii threatened to legalize same-sex “marriage” in the 1990s, citizens in those states responded quickly by passing amendments tying the courts’ hands. When Massachusetts’ court issued its ruling, the citizens and legislature could do very little — at least in the short-term.

— Can anything be done in Massachusetts to reverse the ruling?

The state legislature passed an amendment earlier this year 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 the legislature again in the next session and pass a vote by the voters, which would be 2006 at the earliest.

— Are other states likely to follow?

Perhaps. California, New Jersey, New York and Oregon are prime targets. All four states are defending their marriage laws against lawsuits. California is the only one of the four with a law explicitly banning same-sex “marriage.”
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust