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July 16, 2008
Column #1,403
Massachusetts Advances Gay Marriage - Again
by Mike McManus

Massachusetts is determined to force same-sex marriage on all of America. 

That's the only explanation for a unanimous voice vote by Massachusetts Senate Tuesday to repeal a 1913 law barring out-of-state couples from marrying if their home state would not recognize the marriage.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court took the ill-fated first step when it ordered the Legislature to pass a law permitting same-sex marriage in 2003, resulting in 11,000 gay weddings. 

However, then Gov. Mitt Romney told town clerks not to approve out-of-state gay couple weddings, citing the 1913 law preventing marriages of those whose home states did not approve of gay marriage. He also warned that repealing the law would make Massachusetts the "Las Vegas of gay marriage." That staved off a vote for several years.

However, it was 2008 presidential politics that encouraged gays to hesitate to push for repeal.   Marc Solomon, campaign director of MassEquality, a gay rights group, told the New York Times, "We were collectively thinking about planning to wait until after the November elections because we were concerned that the far right, the Karl Rove types of people, would once again try to use this issue as a wedge issue in the campaign".

Then the California Supreme Court ruled by 4-3 that gay marriage was legal, overturning a 2000 referendum backed by 4.6 million people (61%)  that upheld traditional marriage as the union between a man and a woman.  "Once the California decision happened and out-of-state couples could go to California, there was no reason not to move forthwith," said Solomon.

California could override the Supreme Court ruling if it supports a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexuals. That seems likely.

However, if the Massachusetts House approves the repeal, Gov. Deval Patrick said he would sign it. (His 18-year-old daughter recently disclosed that she is a lesbian.)  There is no recourse.  An attempt to pass a MA Constitutional Amendment failed this year when the bill did not even get a required meager 25% backing from the Legislature.

"The green light has been given to export this radical social experiment from coast to coast," said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, an affiliate of Focus on the Family.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston and three Catholic bishops from Springfield, Fall River, and Worcester jointly stated that "Our legislature is attempting to impose the Supreme Judicial Court's definition of marriage upon other states. Such action endangers the principle of state sovereignty that gives each state the right to govern itself and enact its own laws."

They argued that "Marriage is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman joined in an intimate community of love and life. Across times, cultures and many different religious beliefs, marriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of the family and society.  Marriage is a personal relationship with public significance."

Sadly, the statement was issued AFTER the Senate action.  Twenty of the state's 40 Senators are Catholic, some of whom might have paid attention, if pressured before the vote.

Incredibly, not one voice of opposition was heard in the brief discussion of the issue before the voice vote. Brian Camenkey, president of the pro-family group, MassResistance, called the vote "cowardly: Nobody, obviously, nobody wanted their name in front of this.  Somebody could have at least called for a roll call vote."

There appears to be some hope for a vigorous floor debate in the House.  One charge made in the Senate debate can easily be refuted, that the 1913 law was originally aimed at preventing interracial marriages. Back in 1843, Massachusetts was the second state in the country to pass a law to permit interracial marriage. Why would the state vote 60 years later to limit its impact on other states?  Similarly, no one was thinking of same-sex marriage in 1913.

Out-of-state gays filed a case against the 1913 law that was rejected by the Supreme Judicial Court that approved gay marriage because "We would not presume to dictate how another State should respond to today's decision."

A state Economic Development Office estimated that a change of the law could attract 21,000 gay couples from New York and New England to Massachusetts, boosting the economy by $111 million.

That seems excessive. However, armed with Massachusetts recognition, many gays can be expected to file law suits in their home states to overturn state laws, creating chaos in the courts.

The need for a Federal Marriage Amendment could not be more clear. But if a Democratic President and Congress is elected, that will be impossible.

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