Three new candidates supporting same-sex marriage in Massachusetts won in a special primary election on Tuesday, increasing the chances that a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage will fail in a legislative vote later this year. The primary elections all but guaranteed that the three candidates will take the seats of recently retired state legislators who opposed equal marriage rights for same-sex couples: former house speaker Tom Finneran and former representatives Brian Golden and Peter Larkin. "Today is another important step in ensuring that equal marriage remains the law of the land in Massachusetts," said Marty Rouse, campaign director for the gay rights group MassEquality. "We don't know a lot about the timing or the vote count in the legislature. But we do know that we'll enter that debate with three new strong supporters of marriage equality."
Rouse noted that Tuesday's special election results follow the organization's successful efforts in the September primaries and November general elections, when every incumbent who supported marriage equality won reelection and two opponents were defeated and replaced by supporters of same-sex marriage. For the seat vacated by Finneran, Linda Dorcena Forry, who was endorsed by MassEquality, defeated her rivals in the race, three of whom argued in favor of the constitutional marriage ban. With no Republican or unenrolled candidates in this race, Dorcena Forry, a housing specialist with the city of Boston, should easily win the general election on April 12. "The symbolism of this race is dramatic," said MassEquality political director Marc Solomon. "We are thrilled to have helped Linda, a leader who embodies and respects diversity and who strongly supports marriage equality. The contrast and progress in this one seat couldn't be more striking."
For the seat vacated by Golden, who opposed both marriage and civil unions for gays, community leader Mike Moran won a four-candidate primary. One candidate in the race, Greg Glennon, highlighted his opposition to same-sex marriage. Gay MassEquality candidate Timothy N. Schofield also lost. Moran will face former assistant attorney general Tom O'Brien, an unenrolled candidate, in the general election. Like Moran, O'Brien is a committed supporter of equal marriage rights.
In the race to succeed Larkin in Pittsfield--one in which all three Democrats supported marriage equality--former Pittsfield city solicitor Chris Speranzo prevailed in the Democratic primary. In the general election, it appears he will face Terry Kinnas, a backer of the amendment. But Pittsfield voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, and gay rights activists expect that Speranzo will win easily on April 12.
The proposed constitutional amendment was passed by the legislature last spring by a vote of 105-92. But not all of those who voted it down did so because they support same-sex marriage. Nine of those who opposed it did so because they opposed the bill's establishment of civil unions. The proposal must be passed a second time this year in its current form before it can go before voters in 2006. How that vote will play out is not certain, Solomon told Advocate.com. "Its going to take a lot of hard work," he said. "We've got to convince legislators to vote against the amendment. The good news is that the people who are being replaced in this election were strongly antigay. Tom Finneran really blocked equality legislation for many years. We are three steps closer. It just continues the momentum in our favor. Voters have been very responsive to candidates who ran on pro-equality. We have built a movement in this state of straight and gay people who are committed to doing everything they can to preserving equal marriage rights."