Mass. marriage amendment overcomes opposition, passes
BOSTON (BP)--In an action that surprised even some conservatives, Massachusetts legislators Jan. 2 passed a proposed constitutional marriage amendment just hours before it would have died as the session ended.
The amendment, which would protect the natural definition of marriage statewide, now must pass once more in the next session if it is to appear on the 2008 ballot. If adopted, it would reverse a landmark court ruling from 2003 that legalized "gay marriage."
Just days ago the amendment appeared doomed. Legislators met in a constitutional convention three times in recent months but recessed each date without giving the proposal an up-or-down vote. Many observers thought the same thing would happen Jan. 2, the last day of the legislative session. Instead, the amendment received 62 votes -- 12 more than required under state law. Voting against it were 134 members. Under state law the proposal needed the support of only one-fourth of legislators in the 200-member chamber.
"It was a miracle," Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told Baptist Press. "We did everything possible that we could do over the last year and a half to get to this point.... Nobody gave us a plugged nickel's chance and yet God made it happen."
A record 170,000 Massachusetts citizens signed petitions to qualify the amendment for legislative consideration, and Mineau and other amendment supporters were confident they had the 50 votes for passage. But when legislators met in November, opponents of the amendment -- knowing it could pass if given a chance -- voted 109-87 to recess until Jan. 2.
Amendment supporters, led by outgoing Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, subsequently filed a lawsuit against legislators in state court, asking the court to issue a decision laying out the state constitutional responsibilities of legislators. Two days after Christmas, the state's highest court unanimously ruled legislators had a "constitutional duty" to vote on the amendment.
"Those members who now seek to avoid their lawful obligations, by a vote to recess without a roll call vote by yeas and nays on the merits of the initiative amendment (or by other procedural vote of similar consequence), ultimately will have to answer to the people who elected them," Justice John M. Greaney wrote for the court.
Mineau applauded Romney and Democratic Senate President Robert Travaglini for their leadership on the issue. Travaglini was the presiding officer of the convention and supported the amendment. Additionally, Mineau said, there were more than 40 newspaper editorials statewide calling for an up-or-down vote on the amendment.
"But the big gun was the court ruling that said, read our lips, you have to vote to obey the constitution," Mineau said. "And the senate president is an honest broker. He will not violate the constitution and he really exemplified some good leadership and helped make it happen."
Homosexual activists were pressuring legislators to kill the amendment Jan. 2 and not advance it to the next session. Incoming Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, a "gay marriage" supporter, also urged the legislature to adjourn without a vote, The Boston Globe reported. Mineau said it was "very disturbing" to have the next governor, "who is going to take the oath of office to uphold the constitution, coming to the legislature and calling on them to violate the constitution."
Both sides of the political battle now will gear up for the next vote, which could take place before July. Amendment supporters lost "some seats" during the election, including some staunch supporters, Mineau said. Travaglini, though was re-elected.
"We still have in excess of 50 votes in the new legislature, but it's going to be a little tighter," Mineau said. "Truthfully, we were counting on 57 firm votes [Jan. 2] and we got 62. That was encouraging."
Massachusetts remains the only state in America to recognize "gay marriage," although three state courts this year are considering "gay marriage" suits. Mineau hopes Massachusetts is on its way to restoring the natural definition of marriage.
"We're on second base, heading to third," he said.
For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage