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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Let Them Eat Wedding Cake – Editorial 3/25/04

Next week the state constitutional convention will reconvene to consider an amendment defining civil marriage as between one man and one woman, but allowing civil unions. The amendment is an effort to bypass last year’s ruling by the state Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) allowing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

There is no need for this or any other amendment on this issue. Gays deserve nothing less than the same democratic rights as everyone else, including the right to marry. The SJC recognized this last November when it ordered local governments to prepare to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses by May 17. There is no change of law or constitution required to implement the ruling, it stands on its own.

Civil unions are supposed to offer homosexual couples the same benefits and protections as marriage, and in that way are meant to be consistent with the SJC’s ruling. But because gays are not granted the exact same legal status – because civil marriage is legally distinct from civil union – the amendment is essentially trying to establish two “separate but equal” marital statuses. In 1954, in Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that separate is inherently unequal. Unless the Supreme Court overturns this ruling, gay marriage opponents will need a constitutional amendment to prevent its coming to pass.

The bitterly divided legislature has voted several times on the current language of the amendment without official approval. The debate over gay marriage should continue through 2006, when opponents hope to get the amendment to the ballot box. In the meantime, Governor Romney and amendment supporters are appealing to the SJC to suspend its ruling until a statewide vote can be organized.

Discrimination has no place in our constitution in the twenty-first century. The SJC’s ruling should stand and we should celebrate May 17 as a historic landmark in the advance of human rights. There is no need for this amendment and the fiasco on Beacon Hill should end now.