% IssueDate = "11/21/03" IssueCategory = "Events" %>
Promises Support for a Growing Chorus of Bigotry Nationwide
Massachusetts Politicians are Experiencing Confusion and Angst
The comments are in response to a November 18 ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that seven same-sex couples (including one from Orleans) who sued the state for their right to legally marry are entitled to do so. The court gave state legislators up to 180 days to determine how this would happen. No marriage certificates will be issued to gay couples during this time. Meanwhile gay activists at both the state and federal level are gearing up for an intense six months in which anything could happen.
The case, known as Goodridge vs. Dept of Public Health, was filed by GLAD in April 2001 and wound up before the SJC in March of this year. The November 18 ruling threatens not only to ignite the Massachusetts religious Right - but also the national right-wing, eager to pass the federal anti-gay amendment and possibly use it as campaign wedge issue going into the 2004 election year.
To do so would be an enormous task, however, which is why Bush has pledged to work for its passage - edging in stone his increasingly anti-gay agenda. His stance continues Bush's pattern of assaults on gay families. As governor of Texas, Bush also had vetoed a gay adoption bill passed by the Texas state Legislature.
The anti-gay Federal Marriage Constitutional Amendment would require a two-thirds vote in Congress and ratification by three fourths of the 50 states. Despite the apparent difficulty, gay activists fear the SJC ruling will invigorate their opponents into action.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) is among the gay groups preparing for the expected backlash from the SJC ruling. "We've learned from painful experience that court victories are incomplete - and sometimes hollow - until they are translated into statute and fairly implemented," NGLTF Executive Director Matthew Foreman said.
Allies of the gay community are also praising the SJC ruling and preparing to fight any negative repercussions. "The American Psychoanalytic Association could not be more supportive of individual personal choice in this instance," added Gary Grossman, chair of ApsaA's Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues.
"The state of Massachusetts is guarding well the guarantee of equal protection, that which is fundamental to American democracy," added APsaA President Newell Fischer.
Marriage issue looms in Massachusetts Legislature
Meanwhile, activists and residents on all sides of the political spectrum look to see what develops in Massachusetts. Some fear right-wing activists and conservative legislators will use the 180-day waiting period to pass an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment now pending in the Massachusetts state Legislature, while others fear the Legislature will simply do nothing at all.
But Mary Bonauto, an attorney for the plaintiffs on behalf of the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), said the only task left to the Massachusetts state Legislature is to amend state laws to allow gay couples their right to marry - and to do so within the mandated 180 days.
"This is a momentous legal and cultural milestone. The law caught up with the reality that gay people and families are part of the fabric of our communities. At long last, gay and lesbian families and their children will finally be equal families in [Massachusetts.] This will make a huge difference in people's lives," Bonauto said.
However, other gay activists in the state are prepared to go on the defensive. The Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus (MGLPC) said in an e-mail to its supporters that, "Right-wing opponents will work even harder to pass an anti-gay Super-DOMA Constitutional amendment (H.3190) in our state. They're determined to keep gay couples from ever receiving any of the basic benefits that married couples get automatically, just by being legally married. They're determined to ignore the fact that no religious institution will be affected by treating gay people fairly in the secular sphere"
Furthermore, legalized same-sex marriage continues to be met with disapproval from many public officials who traditionally have supported the gay community - and it is opposed by Republican Governor Mitt Romney and Democratic Speaker of the House Tom Finneran. Romney told media outlets that "Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that makes that expressly clear," despite his stated support for civil rights for gay couples.
Massachusetts law currently requires constitutional amendments to be approved by two different legislatures and then ratified by voters in order to take effect. Thus, current laws would not allow the SJC ruling to be overturned until at least 2006. But anything could happen in the next 180 days.
Knowing this, some gay marriage opponents are frantically trying to call for a compromise that would give gay couples in the Bay State marriage-like benefits under a different name, similar to what occurred in Vermont in 1999 when "civil unions" were established.
Yet, a majority of legal experts say the SJC ruling is clear in its intent: To award gay couples nothing less than full equality, which is access to the institution of marriage itself.
"Whether and whom to marry, how to express sexual intimacy, and whether and how to establish a family - These are among the most basic of every individual's liberty and due process rights," the SJC majority opinion said. "And central to personal freedom and security is the assurance that the laws will apply equally to persons in similar situations.
"Barred access to the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage, a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community's most rewarding and cherished institutions," the opinion continued.
One of the Bay State's most active gay rights opponents is J. Edward Pawlick, a conservative attorney who heavily invested his own income, time and legal services to attempt passing a Massachusetts anti-gay marriage amendment. He claims the Justices who are responsible to uphold the law only broke the law themselves.
"The foundation of our society has been decided by seven people [the Justices]," without letting citizens decide the issue for themselves. The arrogance of [the Justices] is without bounds. They know that the citizens are against gay marriage and the only way it will happen is to force it upon them," Pawlick said in a prepared statement. "We are witnessing the collapse of a once-great society … We have become a lawless society." National
conservative groups are also attempting to affect local policy in Massachusetts, with the local Massachusetts Family Institute working with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund and other groups to bombard legislators will letters opposing the SJC decision and exploring options to possibly stay the SJC decision longer than the 180 days, to give them more time to pass an amendment.
Plaintiff Gloria Bailey, who has lived in a committed relationship with her partner Linda Davies for 32 years, said: "All we want is to preserve and protect the life we've built together. As we both grow older, we have become increasingly aware that we are not fully protected without marriage and we stand to lose everything we've worked so hard to build."
According to the Boston Globe, public polls in Massachusetts show the majority of Bay State residents now support gay marriage rights. Globe Columnist Eileen McNamara summed up the sentiments of many in a Nov. 19 column.
"While acknowledging that many people of deep personal conviction oppose the right of same-sex couples to marry, the [SJC] made clear yesterday it is not a house of worship but a court of law," she wrote. "The plaintiffs had sought is judgment, not its blessing, and that is what they got. … Amen."