Friday, August 26, 2005

Mass. State Legislators Want to Switch to Civil Unions

(Link) Being the only state in the Union that allows same-sex marriage, Massachusetts hasn't suffered any Wrath o' God (tm). But all that equality apparently makes some legislators nervous enough to brew up a potential amendment to water it down.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:

By Glen Johnson
Associated Press

BOSTON -- State legislators voted Wednesday to hold a Constitutional Convention next month to debate a proposed amendment that would replace gay marriage in Massachusetts with Vermont-style civil unions.

Members of the House and Senate have already given initial approval to the amendment, but the state constitution requires them to approve identical language in two successive sessions before the amendment can be put before state voters.

The Supreme Judicial Court legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts in 2003, making it the only state where such unions are legal. Opponents then backed a constitutional amendment that would outlaw gay marriage but permit civil unions.

Civil unions would provide same-sex partners the same legal benefits without the status of marriage.

Legislative approval of the amendment has been thrown into doubt after some supporters in the initial vote announced they had changed their mind. The most recent is Rep. Anthony Petruccelli, a Democrat, who was quoted this week as saying he will not vote for the proposal despite supporting it last year.

Petruccelli told Bay Windows, which features gay news, that legalized gay marriage has "made strong unions among people who have not had the opportunity until that time to get married."

The legislative session on Wednesday, itself technically a Constitutional Convention, lasted barely a minute. The motion to reconvene Sept. 14 passed immediately on a voice vote.

In June, the Massachusetts Family Institute submitted a citizen's initiative petition that would amend the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Gov. Mitt Romney withdrew his initial support for a compromise, and is backing the initiative petition. He said the compromise "muddied" the issue of gay marriage by legalizing civil unions.

The initiative is now being reviewed, along with all other proposed 2006 ballot questions, by Attorney General Tom Reilly. If it is approved, proponents would have to gather about 66,000 certified signatures to get it on the ballot.

Currently, Vermont and Connecticut are the only states to provide for civil unions.