Marriage amendment defeated

Hundreds of traditional marriage supporters line Beacon Street across from the Statehouse prior to the June 14 vote. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

BOSTON -- Traditional marriage advocates are vowing to continue the battle for cultural values in Massachusetts, despite the recent defeat of the marriage amendment. On June 14, state legislators voted 151 to 45 in opposition to the marriage amendment, which would have defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the Commonwealth’s constitution. The amendment fell just 5 votes shy of the 50 votes necessary for it to appear on the 2008 ballot.

“We are regrouping and laying out a new strategy in the battle for marriage, and of course we are working in very close relationship with Catholic Citizenship,” said Kris Mineau, spokesman for VoteOnMarriage.org, the campaign behind the amendment. “One of the areas that we are looking at very closely with our legal council is the allegations of bribery, political rewards and patronage job offers. Those rumors were circulating widely for the last three to four weeks.”

Mineau accused Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, of confessing to bribery in a July 14 Boston Globe article in which she said, “It’s very frustrating because legislators keep upping the ante on what they want to get for their votes.”

Mineau told The Pilot on June 20 that VoteOnMarriage.org will investigate these rumors and possibly seek recourse with the State Ethics Commission and Attorney General’s Office. A new signature campaign will also be considered, but the political landscape on Beacon Hill must change first, he said.

“We cannot give up,” he said. “We remain in this battle because there is a greater battle for the cultural values of this Commonwealth.”

Due to changes in seats after the November 2006 elections and the last-minute switch of nine legislators, the marriage amendment was defeated on June 14.

Representatives and senators began the constitutional convention with the Pledge of Allegiance, and then quickly moved to a vote 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 read, “Victory. Love wins.”

Arline Isaacson told reporters, “It’s 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 wasn’t for them, we never could have gotten this,” she said.

Kris Mineau 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.

“They’re absolutely not listening to the people. They’re 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 continued.

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 state history. Once 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.

After the final tally of the June 14 vote, politicians who opposed the amendment gathered on the Statehouse’s Grand Staircase. Same-sex marriage advocates cheered, clapped and chanted “thank you.”

Addressing the crowd, Senate president Therese Murray said, “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. 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 Salvatore DiMasi. Now, the government can focus on important issues regarding the economy, education and healthcare, he added.

Responding to reporters’ questions, 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. Many lingered hours after the vote, and Mineau came out to thank traditional marriage supporters for their commitment and courage. He then led the crowd in prayer, calling the amendment’s defeat a “Red Sea” that can only be parted by God. For people of faith, their victory and strength come only from the Lord.

“The politicians have spoken. The people have not,” he said. “We’re not going to go away.”

Among those gathered were Catholics, including Burt Chasse of Ludlow and Carol Bailey of Westfield. Both said they were very disappointed by the Legislature’s 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 don’t represent all the people. They represent a few of the people.”

In an e-mail to supporters Victor Pap, executive director of Boston-based Catholic Citizenship, wrote, “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 Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the four dioceses of the Commonwealth, called the amendment’s 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 state’s four diocesan bishops.

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?”

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