BOSTON -- As the next critical showdown approaches for a marriage protection amendment, supporters are urged to call, write and especially to meet with legislators at an April 24 lobby day at the Statehouse.
“There’s nothing more effective than personal contact,” said Bea Martins, spokeswoman for Catholic Citizenship in the Fall River Diocese.
Stakes in the battle to redefine marriage rose even higher recently with news that Massachusetts could become the same-sex wedding capital of the country if a law that prohibits ineligible out-of-state couples from marrying here is repealed.
Right now though, the priority is to convince legislators at the May 9 constitutional convention that the amendment should go forward, said Kris Mineau, spokesman for VoteOnMarriage.org, the coalition backing the measure.
People will gather on April 24 at 10:30 a.m. in Room A-1. They’ll hear talks from friendly legislators, get some literature and head off to meet their representatives.
“We’ll arrange for people to go in small groups. This is not a solo thing,” Martins explained. Lobbying hours will run until 3 p.m. and if legislators are not available, people can still talk to their aides.
All four Massachusetts bishops and thousands of Catholics statewide are backing the amendment, which could be on the ballot next year.
At issue is not just whether voters will have a say in restoring the traditional definition of marriage, a choice that was denied them when a 2003 state high court decision opened the door to “gay marriage.” As events since then have shown, religious freedom, free speech and parental rights have also already been curtailed as a result.
For example, Catholic Charities of Boston was forced last year to drop its 100-year-old adoption service because the agency would have been forced to place children with same-sex couples. And public school parents in Lexington and Newton have been told they have no legal right to object to homosexual issues being presented to their young children.
VoteOnMarriage.org has church bulletin flyers that can be downloaded to distribute in the next three weeks. The flyers urge people to call their representatives at the Statehouse and also to urge House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray to allow a fair up-or-down vote.
Murray did say that although she opposes the measure, she would bring it to a vote. However, she also said the vote may be postponed beyond May 9.
Meanwhile on April 2, Gov. Deval Patrick ordered that 26 “gay marriages” for out-of-state couples that took place illegally in 2004 be put in state records, a move that former Gov. Mitt Romney had blocked. The licenses had been issued in four communities -- Provincetown, Worcester, Springfield and Somerville -- where clerks had defied Romney’s order not to issue licenses to out-of-state same-sex couples.
Romney in 2006 won a court ruling backing his decision, because a 1913 state law prohibits people who would not be eligible to marry in their own state from doing so here.
“This is more theater than anything else, because they’re no more legal now than they were before,” said Lisa Barstow of VoteOnMarriage.org. “What is so troubling is the governor is the chief executive officer and yet he’s flouting the law.”
The gay advocacy lobby has moved to get that law repealed, however, with a bill (S800) filed by openly homosexual Sen. Jarrett Barrios, D-Boston.
“It was Gov. Romney’s enforcement of this law that stopped ‘gay marriage’ from being visited on every other state in the country,” his spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told The Boston Globe.
Forty-five states now have either statutes or amendments protecting marriage, but gay advocates continue to make repeated court challenges.
“Clearly this is an example of why we need a federal marriage amendment to define what marriage is,” Mineau said.
And although Massachusetts is still the only state to allow “same-sex marriage,” there is no law on the books -- only the court decision -- condoning the practice. This omission did not escape the gay lobby; Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Boston has re-filed a bill (H1710) that would amend state law to allow marriage “regardless of gender.”
The Globe reported that while gay activists are glad to have the backing of Murray, DiMasi and Patrick to repeal the law on out-of-state couples, their immediate target is defeating the amendment. “That is the only marriage battle the gay community is focusing on,” said Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. “If we lose that, the rest doesn’t matter. The 1913 law doesn’t matter.”
Isaacson’s comment is probably an accurate assessment, noted Dan Avila, associate director for policy and research at the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, which represents the Church in public policy matters.
Avila said that bishops know there must be more catechesis among Catholics about the value and meaning of marriage. Diocesan-wide educational forums will take place soon, he said.
He urged people to thank lawmakers who have supported the amendment, and to join MCC-Net, the conference’s legislative alert network, available at www.macathconf.org.
“Most importantly, continue to pray,” he wrote in a column published March 30 in The Pilot.
“With God’s help, we have overcome tremendous obstacles to get where we are today on the marriage issue,” Avila wrote. “At critical junctures of the process, when it seemed hopeless, God has gotten us through. So we can be confident that we will not be abandoned in this fundamental effort to protect marriage and family.”