Churches in Massachusetts participated in a state-wide effort to obtain signatures for a "protection of marriage" constitutional amendment this past weekend that would ban gay marriages in Massachusetts.
The goal for the petition drive, which began on Sept 21 and will end on Nov 23, is to obtain 65,825 signatures in order to have the amendment appear on the ballot in Nov 2008, but Vote On Marriage (VOM) said that they will gather 120,000 signatures to ensure the petition will pass.
On May 17, 2004 Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to allow marriages between same-sex couples, a result of the Supreme Court Judicial Court ruling on Nov 18, 2003, saying that it was unconstitutional for the state to discriminate against same-sex couples when issuing marriage licenses.
From the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church Senior Pastor Steven Chen commented on this and said that the result of gay marriages was the ruling of one person and voters didn't get the chance to speak.
"We feel that voters should have a say," Rev. Chen said.
Right now there is a constitutional amendment before the Legislature that would ban same-sex marriages and create civil unions, which are approved in Connecticut and Vermont, however, the amendment is "flawed," Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) said.
"Civil unions are a legislative matter and should not be a part of the state constitution." Moreover the amendment is "discriminatory" because it provides "special privileges based on the sexual preference of a small, vocal group and disregard the legitimate needs of people in dependent relationships that are not based on sexual preference."
Mass Equality, a gay rights group gathered outside many churches on Sunday to protest the signature drive the Associated Press reported.
The group's political director said "We completely respect people's right to worship," he told AP, "however, we are very concerned that the church hierarchy has made taking away marriage equality and replacing it with nothing else such a high priority."
Rev. Chen who is a supporter of VOM said, It is universal that "marriage is between one man and one woman," that's why "we want to get back to the right definition of what marriage is."
On Thursday, a lawsuit was presented to the Mass. court by eight same-sex couples from surrounding states who were denied marriage licenses in Massachusetts.
They are challenging the 1913 law that says out-of-state couples cannot get married in Mass. if their home state does not recognize the union.
After same-sex marriage became legal in May, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney ordered city and town clerks to enforce the 1913 law and wrote to every other governor in the nation saying that out-of-state same-sex couples would not be allowed to marry in Mass., AP reported.
If the Judicial Court strikes down the 1913 law, same-sex couples from across the country would be able to wed in their home-town and demand marriage rights.
The Massachusetts Protection of Marriage Amendment says "When recognizing marriages entered into after the adoption of this amendment by the people, the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall define marriage as the union of one man and one woman."