Massachusetts labor unions back same-sex civil marriage as crucial vote nears
Labor unions across Massachusetts representing nearly 200,000 workers have endorsed the state's same-sex civil marriage ruling and are lobbying lawmakers not to vote in two weeks on a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, The Boston Globe> reports.
About half of the state's 200 lawmakers have not taken a public position on the issue. "There are legislators that every year ask for our support, and there's a reciprocity there," John J. Templeton, president of Service Employees International Union, Local 509, which includes about 7,000 state workers, told the newspaper. "We support them, they support us. So we will be lobbying with them to give gay and lesbian people in Massachusetts all the rights and benefits they deserve."
Union officials say they'll talk to lawmakers beforehand, and many of their members will probably go to the statehouse for the vote on February 11. The unions may also highlight lawmakers' stance on gay marriage in candidate report cards they distribute before election day, according to the Globe. Some political observers say that the influential power of organized labor has waned in recent years but remains crucial to many lawmakers as they seek reelection or higher office. And because Republican governor Mitt Romney has pledged to recruit strong competition for the Democrat-dominated legislature, several lawmakers who have not decided on the gay marriage issue could be strongly influenced by a union lobbying campaign.
"I think it really depends on the legislator, but especially the people aspiring to run for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, or any [representative] looking for higher office is more vulnerable to labor's lobbying," said David Paleologos, a political science professor at Suffolk University. "Gay marriage is on their minds, and $10,000 in fund-raising and phone calls goes a long way." Gay rights organizers say they welcome the support of organized labor because it highlights the everyday impact of the court's decision on same-sex families. Arline Isaacson, cochairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus and a lobbyist for the teachers union, said, "It's important because it takes this very volatile hot-button issue out of the emotional realm, the religious realm, and the moral realm and reminds legislators that we're talking about significant and important employment benefits that all workers need, whether they are gay or straight."
Among the opponents to gay marriage, Roman Catholic Church officials across the state are sending out 1 million letters explaining the church position, and a group called the Coalition for Marriage is lobbying to oppose gay marriage. On Sunday, rallies involving about 2,000 people took place across central and western Massachusetts decrying the supreme judicial court decision and calling on lawmakers to vote in favor of the constitutional amendment, which was sponsored by Rep. Philip Travis, a Rehoboth Democrat.