Gay couples have
been marrying in Massachusetts for more than three
years, but the battle over same-sex marriage in the only
state that allows it is anything but settled.
meet Thursday in a special joint session to decide the
fate of a proposed state constitutional amendment that would
overturn the landmark 2003 court ruling granting gays
the right to marry.
They have three
options: send the question to voters next year, kill it,
or postpone the vote.
The outcome could
have an effect not only on gay couples hoping to wed in
Massachusetts but on the fate of same-sex marriage
nationwide and even the presidential ambitions of
former governor Mitt Romney.
Both sides have
pumped thousands of dollars into television, radio,
Internet, and telephone campaigns. Amendment supporters
accuse Gov. Deval Patrick of trading job offers for
votes, something Patrick denies. Democratic
heavyweights such as U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi have
called local leaders, fearing a nasty marriage
equality fight could detract from the
Much has changed
in Massachusetts since the last vote when lawmakers
narrowly backed the amendment.
Last session, two
of the state's three top political leaders, Romney
among them, opposed same-sex marriage. Now all three,
including Patrick and new senate president Therese
Murray, who presides over the joint session, support
Patrick, who is
personally lobbying lawmakers and on Saturday became the
first sitting governor to march in Boston's gay pride
parade, has warned of ''great passions and great fear
and great intolerance'' among supporters of the
''All the [court]
did was affirm an old principle that people come before
their government as equals, that if the government is going
to give marriage licenses to anyone, then they must
give them to everybody, even if your choice of spouse
is someone of the same gender,'' Patrick said.
In order for the
question to reach the ballot, at least 50 of the state's
200 lawmakers must approve the question in back-to-back
lawmakers have either voted for the proposed amendment or
have pledged to do so. Changing eight votes would bring
opponents of same-sex marriage below 50 votes and
block the question.
campaign director of the pro-marriage
equality group MassEquality, said activists are
working furiously to round up enough votes to kill the
question, arguing that the rights of minority groups
shouldn't be put to a popular vote.
''For us to be
able to show the rest of the country that, at least
according to our legislature, marriage equality is good and
fine and worth protecting sends a message around the
country that you can do this too,'' he said.
president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which
supports the amendment, said the group of 57 lawmakers is
marriage equality fear a defeat for the amendment could
spawn a new round of legal challenges to force same-sex
marriage in other states, especially if legislators
agree to rescind a 1913 law that keeps same-sex
couples from other states from marrying in Massachusetts.
marriage continues in Massachusetts and with the 1913 law
possibly being rescinded, then gay marriage would replicate
to other states,'' Mineau said.
The fate of
marriage equality in Massachusetts could also be a
factor in the race for president.
conservatives have faulted Romney for not doing enough to
block same-sex marriage while governor. A defeat of
the amendment could stir old resentments, but it could
also let Romney portray himself as a lone conservative
on the culture war's front lines.
''I think gay
marriage and its history in Massachusetts will work for him
in the long run, becoming something he can rail against,''
said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public
affairs at Princeton University.
The real test
Romney faces is convincing voters that his opposition to
same-sex marriage is a deeply held belief and not a
political calculation, Zelizer said. (Steve LeBlanc,