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News :: GLBT/Queer
Separate but Equal isn't Equal: MA Constitutional Amendment?
09 Feb 2004
On Tuesday November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that equal protection provisions of the Massachusetts State Constitution require that same-sex couples be permitted to marry. In short, gay marriage was found legal under Massachusetts Constitutional law. The immediate response to this historic decision included celebration and enthusiasm by civil liberties advocates, as well as dismayed reactionism from conservatives. On Wednesday, February 11th, an anti-"Gay Marriage Constitutional Amendment" will be voted on by a joint session of the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives. Basic human rights and equality are at stake, and this historic decision may spell the future for gay rights in Massachusetts...
The wording of the Nov 18th decision implied that this legal matter was strictly Constitutional, and that provisions could be made for gays through a legally equal alternative:

"The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples."

The Supreme Court decision prompted pro- and anti-gay advocates to make sense of this decision. Marriage rallies, lobbies, phone banks, literature distribution and even full page newspaper ads have been used to promote various attitudes about this debate. The court ruling allows 180 days for the State to make the appropriate changes to provide equal marriage rights to individuals involved in a homosexual union.

Anti-gay organizations within the state have organized different tactics and actions around this topic. The Massachusetts Catholic church, while facing a budget crisis and closing local dozens of local parishes on one hand, distrubuted tens of thousands of 4 page, color brochures advocating for local activism to preserve the supposed sanctity of heterosexual marriage. The Catholic organization Your Catholic Voice and the religious "traditional" marriage advocacy group Coalition for Marriage organized an anti-gay rally for 2pm on February 8th at the Statehouse. According to the local paper the JP Gazette, more radically militant groups have even distributed "anti-immigrant and homophobic literature" in a residential Boston neighborhood that also specifically target this particular Supreme Court ruling.

The February 8th anti-"Gay Marriage Constitutional Amendment" rally featured guest speakers such as Catholic Archbishop Sean O'Malley, former Mayor Ray Slynn, as well as the co-sponsors of the proposed Massachusetts Constitutional Amendment concerning this decision. Anti-gay protestors picketed the Statehouse with signs that ranged from "Adam & Steve = 0/Adam & Eve = 6 billion" to "Repent or Parish" and "Remember what happened to Soddom and Gomorrah". More interesting are signs that raid "Stop Judicial Tyrrany" and "Establish Democracy in Iraq/How about Massachusetts? Let us vote". Former Mayor Ray Flynn addressed this topic by stating:

"The people wanted an opportunity to express their point of view on this most important issue and of course they’ve been denied that opportunity in the past so that’s why they’re here – legitimately petitioning the elected officials for the right to decide this issue one way or another. And, that’ll be the vote that will be taken up at the state legislature on Wednesday at two o’clock, to pass this amendment along to the voters in 2006."

Unlike the Vermont Civil Union bill, the proposed Constitutional Amendment is not based on weeks of scheduled hearings and first-hand accounts of homosexual families and individuals who will face discrimination by this decision. The most impressive part about the Vermont Civil Union bill were the adjusted attitudes and perceptions of conservative Senate members who participated in the hearings. Even members of the Senate who had been adamant about their stance on homosexuality fundamentally agreed that providing equal rights to all Vermonters was the goal of the Civil Union bill. It's passing demonstrated an attempt by Vermonts representatives to provide equality to all.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that "separate but equal is not equal". Civil Unions represent the unacceptable "seperate but equal" clause and the Supreme Court will not consider legislature which supports discrimination. After the February 4th ruling last week, a Constitutional Amendment is the only way that anti-gay advocates will succeed in furthering discrimination on this issue. While gay marriage liscences are currently scheduled to be issued 180 days after the Supreme Court decision, starting on May 18th 2004, the Constitutional Amendment would stop this progressive decision in it's tracks, and would make any pro-gay legislation nearly impossible under Massachuestts law. On February 8yh, while anti-gay protesters were gathered at the Statehouse, pro-gay supporters of the Supreme Court decision held a peaceful counter-rally across the Common that included children and seniors, as well as signs with messages such as "Civil Marriage = Civil Rights" and "Equality for All". The peaceful rally is demonstrative of the calm and rational approach that gay rights advocates have used to advocate for this decision. Unlike the more angry and militant reactionism that was experienced in Vermont, where hate organizations such as God Hates Fags used violent rhetoric and fear tactics to petition against their Civil Union law, activists within Massachuestts have shown grace and strength in demonstrating the power of love, heterosexual, homosexual and other.

Many Legislators who were concerned about the use of the word "marriage" to describe a legally committed homosexual partnership are now facing an even tougher decision than how to phrase a Civil Union clase: will basic civil rights be denied to homosexuals because of a religious definition of the word marriage? The confusing legal wording and last minute changes made to this proposed Amendment can be simplified to this: Will legislators vote YES for an anti-Gay Marriage Constitutional Amendment, or will they vote NO and keep discrimination out of the Constitution?

On Wednesday, February 11th the Massachusetts Senators and Representatives will hold a Constitutional Convention where they will vote on the proposed Amendment. The coalition has an online service that will put you in contact with your local Massachusetts legislators to let them know where you stand on the issue. This organization is also sponsoring a "Rally for Civil Rights: No Discrimination in the Constitution" at 2pm on Tuesday February 10th, 2004 at the Stae House, Nurses Hall. A similar rally will be held earlier in the day in Worcester at 12pm-1pm, at the Holiday Inn, Ball Room, Lincoln Plaza, 300 Lincoln St.. Security may be tight, but your voice can be heard!

For those individuals who remember the repressive measures taken to restrict the legal rights of blacks or african-americans before the civil rights movement, for those who fought for women's liberation and equality, and most importantly, for those individuals and families who have experienced the restrictive legal language of heterosexual "marriage", the next few days will make history. The Civil Union laws of Vermont and Hawaii are proof of the legal need for homosexual equality, but this Supreme Court decision marks the most progressive court decision since Brown vs. Board of Education. For those individuals and organizations who have fought for equality, and for those who actively oppose it, this case will set a precedent for the future - one that should include the American virtues of equal rights, and opportunity, for all.

To read IndyMedia commentary about the November 18th ruling, check out our Triumph for Same-Sex Marriage article, and related commentary.

Additional online resources relating to pro-gay activism on this topic can be found at the MassEquality website.

See also:

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Re: Separate but Equal isn't Equal: MA Constitutional Amendment?
02 Dec 2004
I've honestly never ever spoken to anyone who was against gay marriage. Most people I have asked say, "their marriages really don't affect me." I would absolutely love it if someone from the other side of the tracks could give me a good reason why same-sex marriage shouldn't take place, because so far, all I see are misguided "Christians" attempting to override seperation of church and state.
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08 Jun 2006
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ojapucgx pocadle
08 Jun 2006
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