Monday, September 12, 2005

Marriage May Stay Legal in Massachusetts

(Link) Despite threats to yank same-sex marriage and replace it with civil unions, lawmakers are accepting the obvious: "It's a dangerous precedent to take away rights that have been granted by the court for an identifiable group of people."

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
BOSTON (AP) - A fragile coalition of lawmakers cobbled together to support an anti-gay marriage amendment is falling apart, virtually assuring that same-sex marriage will for now remain legal in Massachusetts, according to an Associated Press poll. The survey, conducted between Sept. 6-9, found at least 104 lawmakers who plan to vote against the proposed constitutional amendment, which would ban gay marriage but create civil unions.

The amendment, which is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, needs the support of at least 101 of the state's 200 lawmakers to get on the 2006 ballot.

"It's a dangerous precedent to take away rights that have been granted by the court for an identifiable group of people," said Democrat Rep. James Brendan Leary.

Last year, months after the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal, the amendment passed 105-92. It must pass a second vote to get on next year's ballot.

Reasons for the faltering support are rooted in the language of the amendment, which was intended as a compromise between foes of same-sex marriage and supporters of gay rights. It ultimately had an opposite effect, however, alienating gay marriage opponents by creating civil unions and offending gay rights supporters by banning gay marriage.

For the survey, the AP attempted to reach all 200 lawmakers with at least two phone calls. Of those polled, 104 said they would vote against the proposal, 19 said they would support it and three said they were undecided.

Opposition to the measure is likely deeper than the survey indicates. Several lawmakers who voted against it last year couldn't be reached. Others who have voiced strong opposition declined to respond.

More than a dozen lawmakers who voted for the amendment the first time around said they would change their votes this week, either because they fully support gay marriage or oppose civil unions.

Others said that after more than a year of watching gay couples marry, they see no need to rescind the right. Since Massachusetts' gay marriages started taking place in May 2004, thousands of same-sex couples have tied the knot.

"I haven't talked to any married heterosexual couples that have felt threatened by same-sex marriages," said Democrat Rep. Anne M. Gobi, who said she couldn't support the compromise amendment, as she did last year.

Many foes of gay marriage said they prefer a second, much stricter amendment that would ban gay marriage without granting civil unions. The earliest that proposal could go before voters is 2008.

"We are going back to the beginning and defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman," said Democrat Rep. Philip Travis, who voted for the compromise amendment last year, but now plans to vote against it.

Some lawmakers who have supported gay marriage in the past declined to respond to the survey, saying they believed the vote was still too narrow, and many new lawmakers planned to vote against the measure because of campaign promises.

Still, not everyone is switching their vote.

Democrat Rep. James H. Fagan does not oppose same-sex marriages, but he's sticking with his yes vote on the constitutional amendment because he wants the state's citizens to decide.

"I support their right to vote," Fagan said. "I would suggest that people do not vote to amend our constitution."