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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