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Friday, June 17, 2005

A New Challenge to Same-Sex Marriages

More than a year after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, Gov. Mitt Romney said Thursday that he would support a newly proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would overturn that right.

"My view is that marriage should be defined as a relationship between a man and a woman," Mr. Romney said at a news conference, adding, "I hope that this amendment will ultimately be the one which the citizens have an opportunity to vote on."

Mr. Romney's endorsement of the amendment is likely to inject new vigor into the efforts of gay marriage opponents, who failed to block a court decision that allowed the marriages to begin in May 2004.

At that time, most opponents of same-sex marriage supported a two-pronged amendment that would ban gay marriage but create civil unions for same-sex couples. That amendment passed its first-round vote in the Massachusetts Legislature in March 2004 and is scheduled for the second required vote this fall. If passed, it would go before voters in November 2006.

But because some new legislative leaders now favor gay marriage, the compromise amendment has been given slim chance of passing its second round.

As a result, gay marriage opponents have proposed the new amendment, which, because it was not initiated by the Legislature, would require a lower threshold of legislative support to get on the ballot. The new amendment needs to get signatures from 65,825 residents on petitions, and then the support of only 50 of the Legislature's 200 members, in each of two consecutive sessions, before it can be brought before the voters in 2008. Proponents of the measure say they have 60 votes.

The new amendment, drafted by a coalition of conservative groups led by the Massachusetts Family Institute, would generate some unusual consequences. It would not, for example, require that same-sex marriages that have already taken place be dissolved or invalidated.

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said his group had decided not to require that because "the homosexual marriages that occurred happened because of a flawed decision" made by judges, and "it's unfair to penalize those people for a bad decision made by the courts."

Asked if it would be confusing if some same-sex couples were legally married, while others would be barred from getting married, Mr. Mineau said, "It will be for a season, but eventually it will be a thing of the past, a brief social experiment that happened because of court activism."

Mr. Romney said Thursday that he supported the compromise amendment last year because he hoped that after it passed the first vote, the courts could be persuaded to delay the onset of gay marriage until the amendment reached its final vote.

He said he now preferred the new amendment because "it's a very clean, straightforward, unambiguous amendment." The compromise amendment, he said, was "somewhat confused or muddied" because it included civil unions.

Mr. Mineau said that arrangement would be like asking people "to vote for George Bush and John Kerry on the same ticket."

Mr. Romney said that instead of civil unions, he would support "certain domestic partnership benefits like hospital visitation rights and rights of survivorship and so forth."

Mr. Mineau's coalition, however, opposes domestic partnerships, believing they discourage heterosexual marriage. They favor defining same-sex couples as part of larger group including "any two adults living together who are ineligible for marriage," and to provide them assistance under a proposal Mr. Mineau called a "reciprocal benefits" bill.

"It would apply to two elderly sisters living together, an uncle taking care of a handicapped nephew, or even adults taking care of elderly parents," he said.

Gay marriage supporters said on Thursday that they hoped opposition to same-sex marriage had decreased now that about 6,000 same-sex weddings have taken place over the last year. They accused Mr. Romney of trying to appeal to conservatives outside Massachusetts in preparation for a possible run for president.

"We believe he's projecting himself to a national Republican audience," said Marty Rouse, campaign director for MassEquality, a group that supports gay marriages.

Still, Arlene Isaacson, co-chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said she was concerned that some legislators who had planned not to support the compromise amendment this fall might support it now on the theory that establishing civil unions would be better than losing out on both marriage and civil unions.

"Some people in the gay community are torn about that," she said. "There are some people who think, 'At least get us civil unions.' "

Gay Marriage Ban Upheld

SAN FRANCISCO, June 16 (Reuters) - Delivering a setback to supporters of same-sex marriages, a federal judge in California on Thursday upheld the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which recognizes only unions between a man and a woman.

In addition to preventing the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, the act allows states to disregard those performed in other states.

The case was brought by two men who sued Orange County after they were denied a marriage license. The ruling was made by Judge Gary Taylor of Federal District Court.


PAM BELLUCK
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Semper Fi!

Bill Adams

5:34 PM  

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