A brilliant idea

On June 16 the Coalition for Marriage and Family, an umbrella organization that includes the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, unveiled a citizens’ initiative petition drive to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. If the effort is successful, the matter could come before voters in 2008.

Supporters of same-sex marriage have always doubted the potential success of any such initiative. The people of the Commonwealth, they reason, would be reluctant to pull the rug out from under couples that had already entered into same-sex marriages.

They had a point.

Answering that objection, the newly proposed Massachusetts Protection of Marriage Amendment specifically states that it deals only with “marriages entered after the adoption of this amendment,” leaving existing same-sex marriages intact. Oddly, this significant detail has been largely overlooked in media reports.

The grandfathering of existing same-sex marriages is a brilliant solution that avoids confrontation and provides the amendment with a much greater chance of succeeding with the legislature and, ultimately, the people.

In addition, unlike the Travaglini- Lees amendment currently under consideration by the legislature, the Protection of Marriage Amendment leaves the establishment of civil unions in the hands of elected officials rather than mixing the question with the definition of marriage.

The Travaglini-Lees amendment is not an alternative that can be supported by Catholics because it would inscribe same-sex civil unions —marriage with a different name — into the Massachusetts Constitution.

During the 2004 constitutional convention the MCC and Gov. Mitt Romney initially encouraged legislators to support that amendment. At the time, it was seen as a last ditch effort to forestall the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It was hoped that if at least some amendment came out of the convention, it would provide the governor with grounds for requesting that the SJC stay their decision until the people’s voice could be heard. Unfortunately, that strategy fell apart when Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly refused to bring the case forward.

A 2002 ballot initiative to defend marriage gathered over 130,000 signatures — double the required amount — only to be derailed by legislative leaders who employed parliamentary procedures to avoid a vote on the definition of marriage. Had the legislature stepped up to the plate then, that ballot question would have been put before the people of Massachusetts in 2004.

The governor’s immediate support of this new grass-root effort gives the initiative a strong boost and the political weight that will be necessary to navigate the hurdles that it will likely face. We are encouraged that this effort at protecting traditional marriage will succeed.

Gay-rights advocates are waging a full-fledged war on the institution of marriage. They are trying to subvert the institution to force societal acceptance of their lifestyle. This attack is global in nature. By staging attacks on as many fronts as possible, they hope to win enough battles to turn the tide in their favor. Several states in the U.S. are being bombarded with judicial and legislative initiatives from the gay-rights lobby. Beyond our borders, Canada and Spain are on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriages. The Netherlands and Belgium already have. France and Germany have adopted same-sex civil union laws, and Britain is in the process of doing so.

So far, Massachusetts is the only state in which the institution of marriage has been redefined. The present ballot initiative is the last foreseeable opportunity to reverse the SJC’s activist decision that led to that redefinition.

The signature gathering effort will begin this fall. Please consider adding your name in support of this effort. Our children deserve a society in which marriage continues to be a foundational institution geared toward bringing about and rearing future generations.

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