Groups lay groundwork for Massachusetts election fight

BY admin

April 05 2004 11:00 PM ET

In Massachusetts gay rights supporters are training activists to become door-to-door campaigners. Conservatives are planning a legislative guide for voters. Both sides already are gearing up for the fall legislative election as they jockey for influence in the fight over a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.

After the state's highest court said Massachusetts couldn't ban such marriages, the legislature adopted a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban them but also would legalize civil unions for gay couples. It was adopted by only a four-vote margin, and lawmakers who will be elected this fall must pass it again--in the exact same form--during the 2005-2006 legislative session before it can go to voters on the November 2006 ballot.

Advocates on both sides have started surveying voters, analyzing lawmakers' records, and recruiting candidates. Last weekend, in the days leading up to the final phase of the legislature's vote on the amendment, gay rights groups trained volunteers as they fanned out through neighborhoods in metropolitan Boston.

"The gay and lesbian community was very politically disenfranchised and disengaged for the past few decades, but through the constitutional convention they have realized that people can really make a difference if they speak out and get involved," said Josh Friedes of the pro-gay-marriage Freedom to Marry Coalition. "We are seeing an increase in the level of activism, and that bodes well for the future."

They got some strong reactions in the blue-collar East Boston neighborhood. "I'm not interested in that [stuff]. I'm 90 years old--I'm going to worry about that?" one man said before slamming the door. But lifelong East Boston resident Victor Bono, 50, agreed to sign a form letter supporting the supreme judicial court decision legalizing gay marriage, which will be sent to state senate president Robert Travaglini, a Democrat from East Boston. Bono said he believes gays "have as much right to be happy as anyone else."

The Coalition for Marriage, an umbrella group for organizations opposed to gay marriage, plans to reactivate phone banks that were used throughout the constitutional convention--which took place intermittently over the past two months--to urge residents to contact their lawmakers and lobby against marriage rights for gays.

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