Leaders of the Massachusetts Democratic Party voted to back a resolution supporting same-sex civil marriage, just two weeks before lawmakers are scheduled to decide on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban it. The nonbinding voice vote, taken Thursday by a majority of approximately 200 members of the state committee, ignores deep divisions within the party on the issue.
But state party chairman Philip Johnston said it sends the message that "we support protecting the rights of these individuals, and I think most of the rest of the state will support us."
The committee also unanimously backed a resolution opposing the constitutional amendment and any other attempt to amend the constitution to discriminate against same-sex couples. Arline Isaacson, cochair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said the vote is a significant move for Democrats, adding that it "doesn't mean all Democrats have to personally like gay marriage, but they should not discriminate."
The resolution is at odds with the positions of some of the party's leadership, including that of house speaker Thomas M. Finneran, who supports a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. That amendment would void a November high court decision ruling that barring gay couples from marriage is unconstitutional. The decision, handed down by the supreme judicial court, gave the legislature 180 days to act as it "deems appropriate" before the opinion takes effect in May.
Opponents of gay marriage said the Democratic committee's resolution goes against what most Massachusetts voters believe. "We believe that again the Democratic state committee acted out of step from the voters of Massachusetts," said Ronald A. Crews, a spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage.