BOSTON, Mass. -- Despite the outcries of pro-family and Christian groups rallying outside the Massachusetts Statehouse, the legislature adopted a new version of a constitutional amendment that will ban gay marriages, but legalize civil unions, on Monday, March 29, 2004.
By adopting the compromise, lawmakers essentially blocked the consideration of several other amendments supported by pro-family groups, including one that would ban both gay marriage and civil unions and another that would have split the question into two, allowing citizens the chance to vote separately on gay marriage and civil unions.
The vote came at the opening of the third round of a constitutional convention on this issue. Two more votes are needed for the amendment to be completely approved; should this happen, it will go to the 2005-2006 Legislature for further consideration before going to the voters in the fall of 2006.
Robert Knight, spokesperson for the pro-family Concerned Women for America, said he hopes the amendment will be rejected before it goes to the voters.
“This amendment still has to be passed at next year’s convention, so we hope that, with a new legislature in place after November, they will shoot this down and replace it with an amendment that truly protects marriage in essence as well as in name,” said Knight, who is one of the original drafters of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
Outside, the Christian and pro-family protestors continued to rally against gay marriage and civil unions, holding signs that read: “No Gay Marriage, Separate Amendments, No Civil Unions,” “Please Turn to Jesus” and “Jesus Sets Men Free From Demons of Sodomy.”
"I'm just here to support Christ," said Olivia Long, a parishioner at New Covenant Christian Church. "We love all people, but we want to keep it like it was in the beginning."
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference began its first statewide voter registration drive last week to put pressure on legislatures, two-thirds of whom are catholic, to oppose both gay marriages and civil unions.
"Our intention is to have them become responsible citizens on all issues of interest to church and society, and we have a right to do that," said Gerald D’Avolio, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference. "It just so happens this issue is at the forefront, and in our view it is the most important one of the day, and we had to respond to it."
In any case, Christians and pro-family advocates are on the lookout for laws that would ban gay marriage and civil unions at an earlier time frame, because under the controversial Massachusetts high court ruling issued in November, the state will begin sanctioning gay marriages on May 17.
According to the Associated Press, the Governor Mitt Romney (R) said he might seek a way to delay the licensing, but only if a constitutional amendment were adopted this year. Knight agreed that Gov. Romney could indeed prevent the ordeal from happening.
“The governor Mitt Romney can issue an executive order prohibiting issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples, basing it on the fact that the legislature has taken action,” said Knight.
He added that action could be taken on the judicial branch as well.
“The only good that could come out of this is that the Supreme Judicial Court now issues a stay of its order requiring the legislature to act by May 17,” said Knight. “It is widely believed that homosexual couples will apply for marriage licenses on that day if nothing else happens.”