On March 29, Massachusetts lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a state constitutional amendment that would ban marriage but allow civil unions that give same-sex couples the same rights under state law as married couples. In order to be ratified, the constitutional amendment would have to be approved by the legislature again next year and then go before the voters for final approval.
The constitutional amendment given preliminary approval by the Massachusetts state legislature is a retreat from, and defeat for, the principle of equality. Legislators voted to overturn a historic Supreme Judicial Court ruling that will forever be a landmark in our nation’s progress toward full equality under the law. This setback is not the final word. Advocates of fairness will have another opportunity to defeat this amendment next year.
Fortunately, legislators rejected even more extreme amendments being promoted by anti-gay groups opposed to any constitutional recognition or legal protections for same-sex couples and their families.
Massachusetts is still scheduled to begin issuing marriage licenses on May 17th, as required by the Supreme Judicial Court in its historic Goodridge decision. It is unfortunate that Governor Mitt Romney has apparently committed himself to impeding this process. People For the American Way’s 22,000 members and supporters in Massachusetts urge the governor to stop trying to deny same sex couples the equal rights under the state constitution to which they are entitled, as recognized and affirmed by the Supreme Judicial Court.
People For the American Way supports full equality under the law, including marriage equality, for gay and lesbian Americans. Its affiliated organization, People For the American Way Foundation, filed an amicus curiae brief in Goodridge as well as in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned laws that criminalized private adult consensual sexual activity.