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Antigay activists
submit signatures for Massachussetts marriage ban

Antigay activists
submit signatures for Massachussetts marriage ban

Supporters of a ballot initiative to ban same-sex unions delivered boxes of petitions to the Massachusetts secretary of state on Wednesday, the next step in their quest to overturn the 2003 court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The Massachusetts Family Institute and its supporters collected more than 170,000 signatures in support of a ballot question proposed for the November 2008 election. Of those, 147,000 were certified by local election clerks. They needed only 65,825 certified signatures to qualify for the ballot.

"What does that tell us?" Kris Mineau, president of the Family Institute, said at a rally on Beacon Hill. "That the people of Massachusetts have not only spoken, they have shouted. And what are they shouting? 'Let the people vote.' "

The supreme judicial court ruling in November 2003 made Massachusetts the first state to allow same-sex marriage. The law took effect in May 2004, and thousands of gay and lesbian couples have since married. The legislature responded with a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage but allowed civil unions. That amendment won initial approval but failed earlier this year in a second round of voting.

The ballot initiative would ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions. Because it seeks to amend the state constitution, it must also be approved by lawmakers during two successive legislative sessions before it can go on the 2008 ballot. But the ballot question only needs the support of 50 of the state's 200 lawmakers, while the amendment proposed by the legislature needed consecutive majority votes.

Critics accused supporters of the petition of deceiving people into signing--in some cases, having them first sign a petition proposing to allow wine sales in liquor stores before flipping over their clipboards and having them sign a second petition without specifying that it was for the same-sex marriage ban. "We believe there was no deception involved," Mineau said Wednesday. "This was a bipartisan event. There were no politics involved."

The Catholic Church also supported the petition drive, as did Gov. Mitt Romney. In September state attorney general Tom Reilly announced that 15 proposed ballot questions had passed constitutional muster. Supporters then had until November to gather the signatures of 66,000 registered voters. City and town clerks validated those signatures, and supporters had to file them with the secretary of state by the close of business Wednesday. (AP)

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