Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Thursday he supports amending the Massachusetts constitution to ban gay marriage as long as such an amendment would provide for civil unions for same-sex couples. He stressed that he was referring only to the state, and not the federal, constitution. The Massachusetts senator has criticized President Bush's support for an amendment that would change the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual institution.
"If the Massachusetts legislature crafts an appropriate amendment that provides for partnership and civil unions, then I would support it, and it would advance the goal of equal protection," Kerry told The Boston Globe. He has said he would oppose any amendment that didn't include a provision for civil unions. "I think that you need to have civil union," he said. "That's my position."
Kerry's remark angered supporters of gay marriage, who said his position could help a stalled proposal offered by state legislators that would define marriage as a union of one man and one woman and create same-sex civil unions. Massachusetts lawmakers are set to reconvene their constitutional convention on March 11. "It is harmful for us and could well affect the vote," said Arline Isaacson, cochair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, which opposes the amendment.
"Senator Kerry is wrong," said Dave Noble, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats. "We're disappointed and upset that he would endorse this measure. Amending a constitution is the most drastic step that can be taken. Senator Kerry has been a strong supporter of our community. We need him to now stand with us to fight any attempt to treat our families unequally."
"We disagree strongly with Senator Kerry's statement that he would support amending the Massachusetts constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage so long as the amendment 'provides for partnership and civil unions,'" said Matt Foreman, executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "As the Massachusetts supreme judicial court so eloquently stated, 'The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.'"
Said Cheryl Jacques, president of gay rights group Human Rights Campaign: "Make no mistake--civil unions single out a group of people for second-class treatment. That is discrimination, and it does not belong in any constitution. While we acknowledge the senator's strong opposition to a federal constitutional amendment, supporting a divisive measure in his own state is exceptionally disheartening and, frankly, muddies the water on his actual position."
Kerry has said he opposes gay marriage but has not previously given his opinion on any specific amendment under discussion in the Massachusetts legislature. In 1996 Kerry voted against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union of a man and woman. At the time, Kerry said he opposed gay marriage but felt DOMA amounted to gay bashing.