Opponents of gay marriage gear up for fall
June 17 2004 12:00 AM ET
For a month now, hundreds of same-sex couples have gotten married in Massachusetts with remarkably little fanfare or protest. However, opponents of same-sex marriage are preparing to target the Massachusetts legislature this fall, when all 200 seats are up for grabs. They want to see passage of a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. "The people who are in favor of marriage, the traditional definition of it, we still haven't given up," said Michael Carl, president of a political action committee to support candidates who oppose both gay marriage and civil unions.
On the other side of the issue, gay-marriage supporters plan to mount a legal challenge any day now to the 1913 law that Gov. Mitt Romney has used to block out-of-state couples from exchanging vows in Massachusetts. Overturning the law could lead large numbers of same-sex couples to come to Massachusetts to get married. Those couples could then demand legal recognition in their home states, setting off challenges to marriage laws across the country.
It is not clear exactly how many gay couples have gotten married since May 17 as a result of a first-in-the-nation ruling by Massachusetts's high court that said gays have the right to wed. City and town clerks have two months to file the marriage license paperwork. But on the first day alone, about 1,700 applications were issued.
Gay-marriage foes who had warned of the imminent destruction of a sacred institution have held off holding any large-scale protests and have instead spent the past weeks regrouping for the months and years ahead. They say they want to focus their attention on legislators at the state and national level, not the couples.
In March the legislature narrowly passed, 105-92, a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts constitution that would ban gay marriages but legalize Vermont-style civil unions. The proposed amendment must be approved again in the 2005-2006 legislative session before it can be put to the voters for ratification in November 2006. Given the narrow margin of approval, both sides are working to shore up their support in the legislature.
Also at issue is a 1913 state law that prohibits clerks from issuing licenses to couples if their marriage would not be legal in their home state. "It's an ongoing piece of discrimination...that really needs to be
addressed," said lawyer Mary Bonauto, who represented the seven gay couples in the landmark case that led to the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts.
On another front, a lawsuit filed by a coalition of conservative groups and lawmakers is before a federal appeals court in Boston. The lawsuit claims that the state's high court overstepped its bounds by changing the traditional meaning of marriage. Also, a long-shot piece of legislation has been filed in an attempt to remove the four justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage.
Cheryl Andrews and Jennifer Germack are among the gay couples who have gotten married in Massachusetts. They said life has been remarkably normal since then. "The world is the same," said Andrews, a physician and chairwoman of the Provincetown board of selectmen. "We have the same issues all over America: the economy and people's lives and Iraq and the presidential election."