Massachusetts lawmakers to debate marriage ban
The full Massachusetts house and senate will meet for a joint constitutional convention on Wednesday to consider a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Massachusetts. The debate follows last week's ruling by the supreme judicial court that a proposed civil unions bill would not pass legal muster and that only full same-sex marriage rights would satisfy the court. If a majority of lawmakers vote in favor of the amendment twice, it must be put to the voters as a ballot referendum in 2006. The amendment is eighth on a list of 11 proposed amendments, so it's possible lawmakers won't vote on the marriage issue on Wednesday, in which case the vote would be pushed to another day. Senate president Robert Travaglini is promising a vote on the marriage amendment. "It is my hope that the debate on this intensely personal issue will be dignified and orderly," Travaglini said. "As the presiding officer, I will afford everyone an opportunity to be heard, and there will be a vote on the marriage issue."
The debate also comes at a time when forces on both sides of the issue are mounting campaigns. Some of the couples at the heart of the state's landmark gay marriage case met with Gov. Mitt Romney on Friday, but in an emotionally charged discussion with the Republican governor, they
failed to change his mind. Romney, who backs the proposed amendment, met privately for 20 minutes
with six of the 14 plaintiffs, who later described the conversation for reporters. One plaintiff, Julie Goodridge, cried as she recounted asking Romney what she was supposed to tell her 8-year-old daughter, who has been looking forward to a wedding between Goodridge and her partner, Hillary Goodridge. The governor responded that she should just keep telling her daughter the same thing she's been telling her for the past eight years. "In other words...ignore the fact that she's been so excited that finally her mommy and her ma are going to be able to get married," Goodridge said. "He hasn't really thought about the effect that blocking marriage for parents like us is going to have on the children."
On Sunday, boisterous opponents of same-sex marriage sang, cheered, and chanted at a rally to build support for the amendment. The demonstration on the Boston Common, a short distance from the
Massachusetts statehouse, broke out into chants of "Let the people vote!" while demonstrators held aloft banners with phrases such as "Marriage, ancient, sacred," and "Repent or perish." Police estimated the crowd at 2,000 people. Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston said the rally was not about "hatemongering," as some critics have charged. "We are here because we are concerned about marriage and about family," he told the cheering crowd. "Good strong marriage and family are good for our country, for society." Demonstrator Ed Zicko, 69, acknowledged that gay marriage could become the law before residents in the state have a chance to vote on it. "We'll just have to wait for that time to vote, unless they find some way to delay it, which I hope they can," Zicko said. He said he came to the rally because marriage is a tradition going back thousands of years, and "I think people should have the opportunity to vote on it."
During the rally, several hundred supporters of gay marriage demonstrated loudly at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul across the street. A poll released Sunday by Merrimack College's Center for Public Opinion Research suggested that support for gay marriage may be slipping, while support
for legalizing civil unions is growing. Of 501 adults interviewed by phone in late January and early February, 33% said the state should recognize gay marriages, compared with 37% in November. In the latest poll, 43% said the state should recognize civil unions, compared with 38% in November. The margin of error was 4.5 percentage points.