Local

Marriage amendment blocked

byChristine Williams
6/15/2007

BOSTON -- Massachusetts legislators voted 151 to 45 in opposition to the marriage amendment, which was left just 5 votes shy of the 50 votes necessary for it to appear on the 2008 ballot.

Due to changes in seats after the November 2006 elections and the last-minute switch of nine legislators, the amendment that sought to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the Massachusetts constitution was defeated.

Representatives and senators began the constitutional convention with the Pledge of Allegiance, and then quickly began voting on the marriage amendment. Outside the chambers, amendment supporters and opponents watched the roll call on a live feed provided by the media. Once it was announced that the amendment had failed, opponents began crying, embracing each other and cheers rang out.

One man held a sign that said, Victory. Love wins.

Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, told reporters, Its over.

She added that it is now time for Massachusetts to move on and leave discrimination and intolerance behind.

Isaacson praised the leadership of the Senate and House and Gov. Deval Patrick.

If it wasnt for them, we never could have gotten this, she said.

Kris Mineau, spokesman for VoteOnMarriage.org, the campaign behind the amendment, accused the legislators of not listening to their constituents. In recent polls, 75 percent of Massachusetts voters have said they want the opportunity to vote on marriage, he said.

Theyre absolutely not listening to the people. Theyre listening to special interest groups, he said. For this number of votes to change, there had to be something extraordinary going on.

Same-sex marriage proponents have spent more than $2 million in the last 6 months in the Commonwealth, he added.

We have nowhere near that amount of money. They outspent us 10 to 1, he said.

Legislators listened to money and power, rather than the people, Mineau said.

After several failed attempts at a legislative initiated effort to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the state constitution, traditional marriage supporters began a citizens initiative petition in 2005. During a 60-day period that began on Sept. 21, the petition garnered over 170,000 signatures, the most in the Commonwealths history. Then introduced as an amendment before the Legislature, it required the support of 25 percent of the joint Legislature at two consecutive constitutional conventions. Despite repeated delays as legislators recessed the constitutional convention, the amendment passed on Jan. 2, the final day of the 2006 session, receiving 62 votes.

Massachusetts legislators recessed their first constitutional convention of the 2007 legislative session May 9 without taking a vote on the amendment and scheduled the next convention for June 14. If the amendment had received five more votes, it would have appeared on the 2008 ballot.

After the final tally of the June 14 vote, politicians who opposed the amendment gathered on the Grand Staircase. Traditional marriage opponents cheered, clapped and chanted thank you.

Senate president Therese Murray said to the crowd, This is the 17th time this issue has been before the Legislature and the 14th time it has been voted on. This question has been fully vetted, and now we can get on with the business of the Legislature.

Gov. Deval Patrick also weighed in, announcing, In Massachusetts the freedom to marry is secure.

The vote was a victory for equality and a tribute to the energy, engagement and persuasive talents of Murray and House speaker Sal DiMasi. Now, the government can focus on important issues regarding the economy, education and healthcare, he added.

Patrick admitted to agreeing to attend fundraisers and other district visits for those who relinquished their support of the amendment in order to celebrate their political courage.

Outside the Statehouse, supporters and opponents of the amendment spent the day on opposite sides of the street, cheering and shouting slogans at one another. Many stayed hours after the vote, and Mineau came out to thank traditional marriage supporters for their commitment and courage.

Mineau told the group that those committed to traditional marriage are going to regroup and consider the next step, which may be a second citizens initiative petition. Traditional marriage supporters will never stop being committed to the cause that children should have the role model of a mother and a father -- both in their own homes and in society generally.

The politicians have spoken. The people have not, he said. Were not going to go away.

Mineau then led the crowd in prayer, calling the amendments defeat a Red Sea that can only be parted by God. For people of faith, their victory and strength come only from the Lord, he added.

Among those gathered were Catholics, including Burt Chasse of Ludlow and Carol Bailey of Westfield. Both said they were very disappointed by the Legislatures vote.

Nothing good is going to come out of this, said Chasse. I think some senators and representatives sold their souls for a very low price.

Bailey added, They dont represent all the people. They represent a few of the people.

Wrote Victor Pap, executive director of Boston-based Catholic Citizenship, in an e-mail to Catholics, It seems as though Massachusetts has been destined to be the example that awakens our allies. If that is the role He wishes for us, so be it. God remains on His throne even in a dark hour such as now.

Catholic Citizenship is a nonpartisan grassroots organization, which promotes public policy education and participation of Catholic laity in politics.

The public policy arm for the four diocese of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, called the amendments defeat tragic.

"The leadership of the democratic party refuses to allow citizens and elected officials to vote their conscience on social issues. Their ideological positions undermine the common good. Today, the common good has been sacrificed by the extreme individualism that subordinates what is best for children, families and society, said the statement, signed by the four bishops of the state.

Those who opposed the amendment used an unprecedented amount of pressure on legislators to defeat it, the bishops said. The bishops also thanked those who stood firm in their support.

They continued, The question for those elected officials who opposed allowing the marriage amendment to be voted on by the people is: do we live in a country where people are free to vote their conscience or are we controlled by what is viewed as politically correct and by powerful special interest groups?