Editorial: Keep gay marriage vote on track
by Editor
Salem News
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

[This article was published as an editorial in the Salem News. To read my response also published in the Salem News click here. – Bob]

Ideological purists, including Gov. Mitt Romney, are throwing away a chance at a reasonable compromise on same-sex unions in Massachusetts.

Romney and others who oppose same-sex marriage have endorsed a citizens’ petition campaign to, in effect, block both gay marriage and civil unions by amending the state constitution. In doing so, Romney and his allies are pulling the rug out from under another proposal that would ban gay marriage — one that is just a step away from going to voters for a decision.

By insisting that neither gay marriage nor civil unions should be permitted in Massachusetts, hard-liners risk a continuation of the status quo — legal gay marriage as ordered by the state Supreme Judicial Court in a 4-3 decision.

Amending the constitution is not easy. It takes affirmative votes by the Legislature in two consecutive sessions before an amendment can be placed on a statewide ballot for voters’ consideration.

Same-sex weddings became legal in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004, triggering an effort to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage but permit civil unions — an arrangement that grants same-sex couples certain legal rights. Vermont has a civil union law.

Romney, while insisting he did not support civil unions, endorsed that amendment as a means of putting a stop to gay marriage. The amendment narrowly won the approval of the Legislature last year. It needs legislative approval again this year before going to a statewide ballot vote in 2006.

But last week the Massachusetts Family Institute and an alliance of Christian groups announced a petition drive to place a different amendment — one banning gay marriage and also, as a practical matter, civil unions — on the ballot. This would require the sponsors to collect 65,825 signatures by this fall. The bill must then win the approval of 25 percent of the Legislature in two consecutive sessions before voters would have a say.

Romney endorsed this latest plan, saying the amendment under consideration by the Legislature “is somewhat confused or muddied” because it allows civil unions.

The only thing “confused or muddied” has been Romney’s position on the matter.

Voters would not get a chance to act on this new amendment until 2008. If passed, it would likely be 2009 before the law was enacted.

Supporters say the bill would not dissolve any existing gay marriages. But with a track record of four years of gay marriage before a vote, its passage would be unlikely.

We think marriage is a tradition with thousands of years of history that should not be changed by the whim of a court. Voters should make those decisions in a democracy.

But we also believe that same-sex couples should have access to an array of legal protections such as the right to visit a sick companion, make decisions for him or her, and inherit property. These are the kinds of rights a civil union law can assure.

That’s why the governor should forget the need to position himself ideologically for a presidential campaign and get back behind the compromise he once endorsed. And the Legislature should muster the backbone to support it as well.

Give the people their vote — in 2006, not 2008.

Reprinted courtesy of The Salem News

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