Antigay amendment lacks support in Massachusetts
Although most lawmakers in Massachusetts have not made public their stand on a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and unions, a poll shows a resistance to such a measure as it currently is written. The poll, conducted for The Boston Globe after the state Supreme Judicial Court on November 18 declared it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, showed that of the 94 lawmakers who responded, opponents to the constitutional measure outnumbered those in favor by a 2-to-1 margin. Both senate president Robert E. Travaglini and house majority leader Salvatore F. DiMasi said they would vote against the proposal. House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, a conservative Democrat, has yet to comment on the SJC's ruling; DiMasi predicted Finneran would vote in favor of an amendment restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.
Rep. Philip Travis, the bill's chief sponsor, said he might agree to strike language that many interpret as banning civil unions if that would increase the measure's chances of passage. "I am doing this in a political realm, and the reality is that I want 101 votes," Travis said, referring to the number of votes required to pass in a legislative constitutional convention. "This is the most important vote I will participate in my 21 years in the statehouse.... If I have to amend it to keep the essence together, that is within the latitude of my common sense."
Of those who responded to the Globe's e-mail survey, 60 said they would oppose the Travis bill, which would block state recognition of anything other than a heterosexual couple as the "equivalent" of married. The Globe said several lawmakers indicated they would drop their opposition to the proposed amendment if the measure no longer contained language viewed as banning civil unions. The Globe said 31 would back the Travis bill. The newspaper also reported that 106 lawmakers did not reply to the survey, either because they remain confused about the court's decision or because they don't want their positions disclosed publicly.
On February 11, the legislature is scheduled to meet in a rare joint session to consider the proposed constitutional amendment. For a constitutional amendment to pass, a majority of the 200-member legislature must vote in favor of it at two successive joint sessions. After that, voters must approve the amendment during a subsequent statewide election--the earliest of which could not be held until 2006. In its 4-3 decision, the high court also gave the legislature 180 days to rewrite the state's marriage laws to provide benefits for gay couples.