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Nobody Happy; Proposed Mass. Amendment Backs Marriage, Endorses Civil Unions
Massachusetts' Voters 'Blackmailed,' Say Supporters of Traditional Marriage

By Bill Fancher and Jody Brown
March 30, 2004

(AgapePress) - The Massachusetts legislature yesterday passed an amendment to the state constitution that has both sides of the homosexual "marriage" issue angry. One pro-family group says the actions of the lawmakers on "Black Monday" are a form of blackmail -- and another calls the decision merely "counterfeit protection" of marriage.

On Monday, the Massachusetts state legislature agreed to let the people of the Bay State decide the issue at the ballot box by approving or voting down an amendment to the state constitution. As written, the amendment protects traditional marriage as the union of one man and one woman while allowing for same-sex "civil unions." An excerpt of the amendment reads as follows:

"It being the public policy of this commonwealth to protect the unique relationship of marriage, only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in the commonwealth. Two persons of the same sex shall have the right to form a civil union if they otherwise meet the requirements set forth by law for marriage. Civil unions for same-sex persons are established by this Article and shall provide entirely the same benefits, protections, rights, privileges and obligations that are afforded to persons married under the law of the commonwealth."

The amendment passed on a 105-92 vote, four more than needed. The amendment must win a second legislative vote next year before it can go before the Massachusetts voters in November 2006. Meanwhile, the state remains under court order to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on May 17, a mere seven weeks away.

Nobody's Happy
Advocates on both sides of the issue are upset at the turn of events. Supporters of homosexual marriage say if the amendment is eventually adopted, it would take away the landmark decision by the Supreme Judicial Court last fall making Massachusetts the first state to allow same-sex marriages. They also say the amendment discriminates against homosexual couples by creating "civil unions" instead of "marriages."

Pro-family groups are upset because the legislature has put the electorate in a tough spot. Family Research Council president Tony Perkins has denounced the amendment, saying it is wrong to make voters who oppose homosexual marriage endorse civil unions.

 
Tony Perkins
"This should be known as Black Monday," Perkins says. "Legislators know the people want to vote on the definition of marriage but instead of giving them a 'clean bill,' they are forcing them to pass civil unions at the same time. That is nothing short of blackmail."

Concerned Women for America was one of the pro-family groups that had argued for the amendment to be divided into two separate amendments -- one supporting traditional marriage and another on civil unions -- thereby giving the people a chance to vote for what they really supported. CWA's chief counsel Jan LaRue had this reaction:

"This is like asking for one answer to these two questions: 'Do you want to protect U.S. currency?' Second question: 'Do you want to legalize counterfeit currency? Yes or no?'" LaRue says.

Perkins says in its attempt to please all parties, Massachusetts legislators please no one. "The debate over the definition of marriage...has gone round and round and, in the end, the majority of legislators abdicated their responsibility by straddling the fence trying to have it both ways," the FRC leader says. "That is not leadership."

According to Perkins, the state lawmakers ignored the wishes of the people by tying both issues together -- defending marriage and approving civil unions. He maintains the people will voice their displeasure at the polls this November.

Rooting for Romney
Following the announcement from his legislator, Massachusetts' Republican Governor Mitt Romney immediately called for a stay of November's Supreme Judicial Court decision which called for the legalization of homosexual marriages in mid-May. He said he will seek a formal stay until the state's constitutional amendment process has run its course.

"I believe the [court] has an obligation ... to withhold this decision ... until the people of Massachusetts can make a final determination for themselves," Romney said. But Attorney General Tom Reilly stated he would not seek a delay. Reilly says while he does not agree with the court's decision, it is clear the majority of the Supreme Judicial Court has made up its mind -- and besides, he says, "that is the law of the state."

Still, supporters of traditional marriage are urging Romney to intervene via an executive order that would allow the legislative process to proceed.

"It's now up to the governor to put the brakes on this madness," says Robert Knight of the Culture and Family Institute. "He needs to make it clear that the law has not changed, and that on May 17, homosexual couples cannot make a mockery of God's institution of marriage." But as Knight points out, in Massachusetts "it doesn't seem to matter what the people want."

NoGayMarriage.com - The Time to Act is NOW! 
FRC's Perkins says federal legislators should take heed. "All eyes are now on Governor Mitt Romney, who is the last defense for marriage in Massachusetts," he says. "And for lawmakers in Washington, the handwriting is on the wall -- the only way to protect marriage in the 49 other states is to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment."

Like Knight and Perkins, Genevieve Wood of the Family Research Council says the next step in the battle over marriage belongs to Romney. She urges the governor to remain strong in defending marriage, noting that supporters of traditional marriage are already working on a new amendment and making efforts to change the current one before it appears on the 2006 state ballot.

"There's a lot that can happen over the next year," Wood says. "I think what's most important right now is for the governor to stand firm [and] not allow any marriage licenses to be handed out on May 17."

She points out that Romney should take advantage of the backing of the state legislature. "He's now got the legislature behind him, saying the people ought to be able to vote on this," Wood says. "So you've got two branches out of the three saying the people should vote on this."

Should the proposed Massachusetts amendment succeed, it would make the Bay State the sixth state to ban same-sex marriage through a constitutional amendment. But it would also become the second state to legalize civil unions. Vermont became the first almost four years ago.

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