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Romney backs
sweeping ban on gay unions

Romney backs
sweeping ban on gay unions

Massachusetts 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. (AP)

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