Many Question Future Changes After May 17 Gay Marriage

( [email protected] ) May 03, 2004 03:56 AM EDT

As the day of gay marriage in Massachusetts is drawing near, opponents and supporters of gay marriage and the statesmen across the nation are questioning if the incident would lead to greater push for federal amendment to ban gay marriage or cause more people to support gay marriage .

It is expected that on May 17, Massachusetts will begin granting marriage licenses to homosexual couples for the first time in U.S. history as a state under the consent of its highest court.

"If May 17 comes and you have the same reaction in the homosexual community that you had in San Francisco, then this is going to become a Dunkirk for marriage in America," said the Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition. "Like that great crisis on the shores of France, it isn't the end of marriage, it isn't the end of one man, one woman, but it's a major loss."

On the other hand, gay activists contend that once the day comes, most Americans, the opponents of gay marriage, would realize that nothing worst could happen.

"When the dust settles, we'll see that no one is hurt, families are helped, gays did not use up all the marriage licenses, and there's enough marriage to share," said Evan Wolfson, head of Freedom to Marry and a longstanding marriage rights crusader.

Currently, at least five states are pending to have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage on their ballots this fall and four more states are gathering signatures to do the same. Proposed constitutional amendments are also pending in nine state legislatures, and two -- including Massachusetts -- have approved such measures but must approve them again.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, predicted that May 17 will serve as a "wake-up call" to middle America who is not considering same-sex marriage issue as critical.

"If the court's shotgun wedding takes place on that day, the rest of America will see that they had better speak up now or they'll see the same thing taking place in their own states," Perkins said. "This takes it from a Massachusetts problem to an American problem."

Perkins predicted that May 17 will empower the push to amend the U.S. Constitution and ban same-sex marriages.

However what is clear is that once marriage happens in Massachusetts, legal challenges such as 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which have been blocking gay couples from receiving equal rights as a couple, will disappear. All sides believe once the federal amendment fails, marriage laws will go under major transformation for years across the states.

"I think the next 12 to 18 months will determine what we look like 50 years from now," Perkins said. "If an amendment is passed, then it won't happen. If an amendment is not passed, I would say yes, homosexual marriage is inevitable if we do not take a stand now and place the historical and traditional definition of marriage into the constitution."


States in the process of amending state constitutions since the decision made by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in November declaring that forbidding gays and lesbians from marrying is violation against the state's constitution:

-- Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah have measures on the fall ballot to constitutionally ban same-sex marriages.

-- In Arkansas, Montana, Ohio and Oregon, signatures are being gathered for ballot measures to amend state constitutions.

-- Constitutional amendments are pending in state legislatures in Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Tennessee and Vermont.

-- Constitutional amendments are awaiting second approval in Massachusetts (which would allow civil unions) and Wisconsin before they can proceed to the ballot.

-- Kansas (a previous measure failed), North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania are considering introducing amendments.

-- Maryland voted down a bill in committee, Michigan came up eight votes shy in the House, and bills failed to come up for a vote in Maine and Arizona.

-- Four states -- Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Nebraska -- had previously amended their constitutions to preclude or limit the recognition of same-sex marriage.

Courtesy of