governor Mitt Romney said Thursday that he will support a
newly proposed state constitutional amendment banning both
same-sex marriages and civil unions in Massachusetts, the
only state where same-sex marriage is now legal. The
measure, which was announced Thursday by opponents of
marriage equality, will take the form of a citizen's
initiative. That means the state attorney general's office
must sign off on the proposal's language, supporters must
collect enough signatures, and one quarter of lawmakers in
the legislature must vote to approve it. If it passes those
hurdles, it could appear on the statewide ballot for a vote
as soon as November 2008.
"Governor Romney believes that voters should be given
a straightforward amendment to decide the definition of
marriage and not one that muddies the water by creating
civil unions that would be equivalent of marriage in all
respects but name," said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom.
Boston archbishop Sean O'Malley and the bishops of
the state's other three Roman Catholic dioceses pledged
support for signature-gathering efforts. "We encourage all
Catholics to exercise their civil right to participate in
the signature drive for the new initiative petition," they
said in a statement.
The initiative is separate from a proposed amendment
now pending before the legislature that would ban same-sex
marriages but legalize Vermont-style civil unions. That
amendment, which already has passed the legislature once,
must pass by majority vote in identical form again this year
in order to appear on a state ballot in November 2006.
Romney had supported that earlier amendment as well, but he
said at the time the only reason he did so was because it
would ban marriage for same-sex couples. "If the question
is, Do you support gay marriage or civil unions? I'd say
neither," Romney said last year. "If they said you have to
have one or the other, that Massachusetts is going to have
one or the other, then I'd rather have civil unions than gay
marriage. But I'd rather have neither."
Massachusetts's highest court ruled in November 2003
that the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the
right to marry. The nation's first state-sanctioned same-sex
weddings began taking place May 17, 2004, and since then
thousands of gay and lesbian couples have tied the knot.