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Posted: 2/20/2004

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March 11 is ahead of us. After two days of debating, political maneuvering and some filibustering, the constitutional convention was adjourned for a month.

Although it was disappointing to see all the hesitation and all the demagoguery on this issue, there was at least one hopeful sign: Only 23 state legislators, by voting against all three amendments that came before them during the two-day convention, indicated that they want the Supreme Judicial Court’s Goodridge ruling to stand unmodified. That’s good news and a strong foundation to build on.

The other 175 legislators agreed — at least to some extent — with the two basic principles we support: That marriage should be defined as a union of one man and one woman, and that the citizens of Massachusetts should be allowed to vote on the issue.

However, throughout the convention, that wide majority became deadlocked over the establishment of civil unions.

As legislators prepare to reconvene March 11, they should reflect on the surge of popular opinion that preceded the constitutional convention. The people of Massachusetts asked legislators to uphold the traditional definition of marriage and to let the people vote on incorporating that definition into the constitution — not on the establishment of civil unions.

Sen. Brian P. Lees, R-East Longmeadow, willingly ignored that fact when he urged his colleagues to support the amendment he jointly proposed with Senate President Robert Travaglini that would have constitutionally established such unions.

"If we are going to put something on the ballot we should put something on the ballot that is fair and protects the rights of every citizen," he said. Unfortunately for Sen. Lees, the people did not demand to have "something" on the ballot, they demanded to be allowed to determine the definition of marriage. Furthermore, the issue is not about "rights" or benefits. If it were, civil unions would have been readily embraced by same-sex marriage proponents. Instead, they loudly and strongly rejected the concept. "Nothing less than marriage for gay couples," they say. This clearly shows that, for same-sex marriage advocates, this issue is not about health insurance, inheritance or hospital visitation rights but about having their lifestyle endorsed -- and promoted -- by the state.

Any amendment that would automatically create civil unions is a “poisoned pill,” as it was referred to on the floor of the convention. If it were to appear on the ballot, such an amendment would be opposed both by those who do not wish to establish same-sex unions and those who demand nothing less than full marriage for homosexual couples. Its defeat thus ensured, the SJC’s Goodridge ruling would stand unaltered. We, therefore, urge legislators to defeat any such amendment.

Catholics should continue to be engaged on this issue and continue to make their views heard. If your elected official voted for the Travaglini-Lees amendment, ask them to vote to reaffirm marriage and to lay aside the issue of civil unions.