Marriage ban
signature irregularities probed in Massachusetts

Prosecutors from
Massachusetts attorney general Tom Reilly's office have
launched a criminal investigation to determine whether
workers gathering support for a constitutional
amendment to ban same-sex marriage forged the
signatures of some voters last year.
The investigation stems from allegations by some
voters that their names were on signature lists
despite the fact that they said they never signed the
petition. It would not affect the outcome, since supporters
had more than twice as many certified signatures as
they needed to send the question for legislative
approval for the 2008 ballot.
The question would amend the state constitution
to ban same-sex marriage, overturning the state's
historic court ruling. Massachusetts is the only state
to grant marriage equality.
"Because some of these concerns raised allege
the crime of forgery, these allegations were referred
to our criminal bureau," assistant attorney general
Stephanie Lovell said in a letter to secretary of state
William Galvin dated Tuesday.
Lovell said investigators from the bureau have
"contacted the complaining party to further understand
the basis for the allegations." A meeting with
activists from MassEquality, a group that supports
same-sex marriage, is set to take place this week.
A call to Kris Mineau, president of the
Massachusetts Family Institute, the main backer of the
amendment, was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Marc Solomon of MassEquality said the group has
heard from more than 2,000 people who said they either
didn't sign the petition or were tricked into signing
it. "People were duped by trained professional
signature gatherers," he said.
Lovell was responding to a letter sent to Reilly
from Galvin late last week. Galvin said he wanted to
report the allegations after receiving complaints from voters.
He said the complaints broke down into two
categories. One group was made up of voters who
said they had been tricked into signing the
anti–marriage equality petition after being told
it was an amendment to allow grocery stores to sell
wine. The second group of voters said their signatures
simply had been forged.
Galvin said that while the number of voters
making the allegations wouldn't affect the outcome of
the same-sex marriage question, the allegations of
forgery are a possible violation of state laws.
At a statehouse hearing last October, supporters
and opponents of the anti–marriage
equality initiative traded accusations of dirty
tricks. Opponents said signature gathers used
"bait-and-switch" tactics to dupe voters into signing
the question, while supporters said gay rights
activists stole blank petitions, defaced others to
invalidate signatures, and shoved and spit on
signature gatherers.
In November the state senate approved a bill
designed to outlaw "bait-and-switch" tactics by paid
signature gathers. The bill was sent to the house.
Supporters of the antigay initiative collected
more than 170,000 signatures. Of those, 147,000 were
certified. They needed only 65,825 certified signatures.
Before it gets on the ballot, the question must
win the backing of at least 50 members of the
legislature in two successive sessions. (AP)

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