Governor, Cardinal urge vote on marriage

Gov. Mitt Romney is joined by traditional marriage supporters including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at Statehouse press conference June 28. Pilot Photo/Albert B. L’Etoile Jr.

BOSTON — Gov. Mitt Romney held a press conference with traditional marriage supporters including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at the Statehouse on June 28 to urge legislators to vote on the citizen’s initiative petition to amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

The amendment would leave existing same-sex marriages intact and would leave open the possibility of same-sex civil unions.

Also present to show their support for the initiative were Fall River Bishop George Coleman, Worcester Bishop Robert McManus, State Reps. Phillip Travis, D-Rehoboth and Viriato Manuel deMacedo, R-Plymouth as well as officials of VoteOnMarriage.org.

The petition drive supporting the amendment netted over 170,000 signatures, the most in Massachusetts history. The proposed amendment must receive the approval of 25 percent of the Legislature meeting in joint Constitutional Convention in two sessions before it can appear on the ballot in 2008. The first Constitutional Convention is scheduled for July 12.

Speaking to the media, Kris Mineau, president of VoteOnMarriage.org, said that now is a “crucial time” for the state.

Gov. Romney called the vote “historic” and said it is not a vote for or against same-sex marriage.

“It will be a vote for or against democracy,” he said.

Romney said that it is possible that some legislators may try to stop the amendment by blocking the legislature’s vote and never giving citizens their right to vote on the issue.

In 2002, then-Senate President Thomas Birmingham adjourned a constitutional convention without a vote on a legislator-initiated amendment to protect marriage. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that Birmingham’s action was not legal.

The state constitution is clear that legislators have a duty to vote on the issue and trust citizens to make the right decision, Romney said.

“Something so fundamental to our society should be decided by the people,” he added.

Roberto Miranda, chairman of VoteOnMarriage.org, also urged legislators to heed the citizens who signed the petition by allowing a vote.

“If, as is so often repeated, our movement represents only a minority of fundamentalist, bigoted individuals out of touch with the feelings of most voters in Massachusetts, I do not see why our opponents are so afraid of allowing the democratic process to run its course,” Miranda said.

“It is obvious that the people of Massachusetts are far from settled in favor of gay marriage,” he said, pointing to the large number of petition signers. “We happen to think that, given the chance in 2008, they will come out convincingly in favor of marriage as it has been defined for millennia by all cultures, races and religions as the loving, complimentary union of one man and one woman.”

Cardinal O’Malley said that society has a duty to pass on a strong institution of marriage for the good of future generations. The optimal place for children is a family of a father and mother in a permanent, loving, committed relationship which deserves to be protected by the state, he said.

“To redefine marriage as merely an arrangement among adults undermines the family and will have serious consequences in our future,” he added.

The press conference comes a day after a dozen religious leaders who form the board of the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry sent an open letter to Cardinal O’Malley and the Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts, accusing them of “promoting prejudice” and impinging on their religious freedom by their support of traditional marriage.

“Taking away civil marriage rights from committed, loving gay and lesbian couples would deny us the right to practice our beliefs,” the letter said. “We respect your right to practice your faith according to your laws. We ask that you respect our faith traditions in return.”

The letter went on to say that signers seek to protect minorities and the “dignity of every soul.”

“By proclaiming homosexuality and same-sex unions to be universally immoral and worthy of second-class status under state law, you are sending a message that our faith communities are immoral,” the letter said.

The signers also claimed in the letter that the Catholic bishops have harmed them, their families and Catholics who support same-sex marriage.

In an apparent response to that letter, at the press conference Cardinal O’Malley noted that in February 2004 religious leaders representing over 3,000 congregations in Massachusetts signed a statement supporting traditional marriage.

“Among the signers were leaders of the four Roman Catholic dioceses, the Black Ministerial Alliance, Orthodox churches, various Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and Episcopalian communities, Jewish congregations, the Islamic Council of New England and Vision New England Churches,” he said. “This is neither a Catholic nor a sectarian issue. It is a human issue.”

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