New ballot initiative on marriage launched

The bishops of Massachusetts are backing a new ballot initiative campaign to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the Massachusetts Constitution. If approved, the amendment would not invalidate existing same-sex marriages.

The new campaign was scheduled to be announced June 16 at a press conference to be held at the Statehouse. A column explaining the plan was released to Massachusetts diocesan newspapers in advance of the press conference.

Marriage is currently defined by common law in Massachusetts as “the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others.”

That definition of marriage was coined when the Supreme Judicial Court, in its 2003 landmark decision — in the case of Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health — ordered officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The initiative to uphold traditional marriage is sponsored by, a coalition that includes, in addition to the MCC, the Massachusetts Family Institute and the Coalition for Marriage and Family.

The text of the new ballot amendment reads: “When recognizing marriages entered after the adoption of this amendment by the people, the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman.”

The proposed constitutional amendment would not affect the status of marriages entered into before its enactment, but it would impede new same-sex marriages in the future.

“Legislators advised marriage defenders that any amendment affecting current same-sex marriages would be ‘dead on arrival’ in the State House,” the MCC column says.

In addition, the new proposed amendment leaves open the question of same-sex civil unions.

“The complex task of fashioning benefits and determining which persons should receive them would remain with the legislature,” the column says.

After three contentious rounds of constitutional convention in the early months of 2004, the Legislature approved a proposed amendment that would limit marriage to heterosexual couples but, at the same time, create a constitutional guarantee of same-sex civil unions that would be identical to marriage under state law in all aspects but name.

If the measure, known as the Travaglini-Lees amendment, is approved by legislators once again this year, it could appear on the popular ballot in 2006.

According to its statement, the MCC and other traditional marriage supporters hope that the new initiative will lead to the defeat of the Travaglini-Lees amendment.

The passing of the Travaglini-Lees amendment “would cause an objectionable wrong — the new legal status of civil unions for same-sex couples — to come into being. The new amendment must be preferred over the Travaglini amendment,” the column says.

Signatures for the new ballot petition will be collected between September 21 and November 23. Supporters will have to gather at least 66,000 signatures to bring the petition to the 2006 legislative session. The initiative will have to be approved by at least 51 state representatives at two different constitutional conventions. If all the requirements are fulfilled, it could be placed in the 2008 ballot.

This is not the first time that a signature petition is carried on in defense of traditional marriage.

In the fall of 2001, over 130,000 Massachusetts voters signed a petition to place a protection of marriage amendment before the state legislature. Then-Senate President Thomas Birmingham twice used parliamentary maneuvers to avert a vote on the amendment, first by rescheduling the Constitutional Convention and then by abruptly adjourning the convention before the measure could be voted upon.

Vermont enacted a same-sex civil union law in 2000 after a Vermont State Judicial Court decision forced the recognition on the legislature. In Connecticut, the state legislature recently approved a civil union law.

Massachusetts is the only state in the Union that recognizes same-sex marriages.

Since same-sex marriages were approved in Massachusetts, 13 states passed ballot measures to amend state constitutions to preserve the institution of marriage.

Currently 18 states protect the traditional understanding of marriage in their constitutions. Twenty-six other states have statutory language in their state laws in the same tone. Only Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island lack legal language that defines marriage as a heterosexual union.

But the push to redefine marriage is not only a U.S. phenomenon.

In Canada, the Courts have forced the recognition of same-sex marriages in several provinces, and in Europe same-sex marriages are legal in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Currently Spain is in the process of legalizing same-sex marriage, a move by the socialist government that is being contested by several civic groups, including the Catholic Church.

The Vatican has responded to this new cultural trend with a 2003 document called “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons,” signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In the document, the Congregation re-affirmed the Church’s teaching that “homosexuality is a troubling moral and social phenomenon,” and asked politicians “to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Pope Benedict XVI, June 6 called same-sex marriage “pseudo marriage,” and an expression of “anarchical freedom.”

 Also, the American bishops have publicly opposed granting same-sex couples the benefits of marriage. They have also called for a federal constitutional amendment to protect marriage.

In a 2003 statement called “Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions,” they said that marriage between a man and a woman is God’s plan, seen in nature and in divine revelation.

Marriage, whose nature and purposes are established by God, can only be the union of a man and a woman and must remain such in law,” it says.

“A same-sex union contradicts the nature of marriage,” it says. “It is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female; it cannot cooperate with God to create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by a same-sex union.”

Speaking of the social importance of preserving marriage, it says: “Across times, cultures and very different religious beliefs, marriage is the foundation of the family. The family, in turn, is the basic unit of society. Thus, marriage is a personal relationship with public significance.”

It adds, “The state rightly recognizes this relationship as a public institution in its laws because the relationship makes a unique and essential contribution to the common good.”

CNS materials contributed to this story

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...