The lead plaintiffs in Massachusetts's landmark gay marriage lawsuit took their battle to a new arena Thursday, rallying a crowd of more than a thousand to fight against a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions. "This spring I will be able to marry the love of my life and take
care of her in sickness and in health until death do we part," said Julie Goodridge, standing beside Hillary Goodridge, her partner of 16 years. "That's why we'll win," Hillary Goodridge said. "Because love always prevails."
Lines snaked out the door of the statehouse and into the freezing temperatures as gay rights advocates lined up to attend the rally, which filled one of the building's major halls and overflowed to the staircases and balconies above. House majority leader Salvatore DiMasi (D-Boston) addressed the
crowd, as did state Democratic Party chairman Phil Johnston and several state lawmakers, members of the clergy, and one gay couple who had been together for 48 years. "All of us must ensure that there is no discrimination and divisiveness, and none should ever be written into our most cherished document, the constitution," said DiMasi, who is house speaker Thomas Finneran's second-in-command. Finneran is opposed to gay marriage.
The rally occurred a day after opponents of gay marriage held a lobbying day of their own, attended by more than 200 supporters--including conservative groups from across the country--and one lawmaker. The house and senate are scheduled to meet in joint session on February 11 to consider the constitutional amendment, which would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. If approved by a majority of lawmakers, the amendment would then have to be approved again during the 2005-2006 legislative session before going on the ballot in November 2006. A vote is likely in February but not mandatory. In past sessions the legislature has frequently postponed and rescheduled constitutional conventions multiple times.
On November 18 the state supreme judicial court issued a decision in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, ruling that it was unconstitutional to bar gay couples from the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of marriage. The case could lead to the nation's first gay marriages on May 17. The senate has sent the state high court a request for an advisory opinion on whether Vermont-style civil unions, which convey the benefits of marriage without the title, would meet the court's mandate.