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BOSTON — The Elections Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth certified 123,356 marriage petition signatures, well above the 65,825 signatures required to move the citizens’ initiative forward. The signature drive gained more signatures than any other drive in the state’s history, according to a Dec. 20 statement from VoteOnMarriage.org, which organized the campaign.
The goal of the initiative is to allow Massachusetts citizens to vote to amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman without invalidating the same-sex marriages that have already occurred.
“Considering that 170,000 signatures were collected mainly by volunteers in virtually all 351 cities and towns over a brief 60-day period, what the citizens of Massachusetts have done is nothing short of monumental,” said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and spokesman for VoteOnMarriage.org.
Initially 170,000 signatures were collected and 138,832 of those were certified by the various cities and towns in Massachusetts. Of those, the Secretary of State’s Office disqualified 4,676 signatures on forms that were not exact copies or contained extraneous markings. The office did not certify 535 forms because they had not been signed by at least three registrars of voters or election commissioners. Another 10,265 signatures were not included due to a provision that says no more than one-fourth of the signatures required for certification can come from any one county. Nine thousand five hundred seventy-one extra signatures were gathered in Middlesex county and 694 extra were gathered in Norfolk county.
Now the petition will be filed with the state Legislature and must receive 50 votes in two consecutive constitutional conventions for it to appear on the ballot in 2008.
“We’re confident that we have those votes,” said Mineau.
“We’re taking one thing at a time. We got through this, and now we’re looking forward to working with the Legislature,” added Evelyn Reilly, director of public policy for the Massachusetts Family Institute. “It’s an incredible sense of accomplishment. We’ve already gotten through so many important milestones including getting the petition certified in the first place.”
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, GLAD, announced plans to file a lawsuit to challenge the petition’s certification in a Nov. 23 statement.
“This question should never have been certified for signature-gathering by the attorney general, and we will file suit to challenge that certification,” Gary Buseck, GLAD’s legal director, said in the statement. “The attorney general simply got it wrong. Our state constitution does not allow a citizen-initiated petition that seeks ‘reversal of a judicial decision.’ This petition squarely seeks to reverse the Supreme Judicial Court’s Goodridge decision.”
GLAD sent two memos to the secretary of state in August this year, saying that the petition is illegal under Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution.
The VoteOnMarriage.org statement asserted that most states already define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“Forty-four states have either constitutional amendments or legislation defining marriage as one man and one woman. Nineteen states have passed marriage amendments, with an average voter approval of 70 percent,” the statement said.
“Massachusetts citizens demand the same opportunity to vote on marriage as their fellow Americans and will insist upon having their day at the ballot box,” Mineau said.