- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Massachusetts lawmakers are gathering today to consider an amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as only the union between one man and one woman.

If a majority of the 199 lawmakers support the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment, they will be taking the first step to amending the state constitution.

However, the earliest a necessary public vote on the amendment could be held is November 2006.

This could leave a 30-month window — in which homosexuals could legally “marry” in the state — before a deeply divided public could weigh in on the issue and possibly overturn the Nov. 18 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized homosexual “marriage.”

Lawmakers at today’s constitutional convention also are considering other amendments, but have been lobbied the most about the high-profile marriage amendment: Traditional values and religious groups say the marriage amendment is the only way to block a judiciary that has “overreached” its authority.

Homosexual-rights groups and their allies say the marriage amendment is a travesty that “writes prejudice” into the law.

Although other amendments are up for debate, Massachusetts Senate President Robert E. Travaglini promised last week that the marriage amendment would be considered.

“It is my hope that the debate on this intensely personal issue will be dignified and orderly,” said Mr. Travaglini, who supports civil unions for homosexuals. “As the presiding officer, I will afford everyone an opportunity to be heard and there will be a vote on the marriage issue.”

Mr. Travaglini’s approach is a 180-degree change from that of his predecessor, former Senate President Thomas Birmingham, who supported homosexual rights. At a 2002 constitutional convention to consider a marriage amendment, Mr. Birmingham opened the session and immediately asked for a vote to adjourn, effectively blocking debate on the amendment.

The two-sentence Massachusetts marriage amendment defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman,” and says that: “Any other relationship shall not be recognized as a marriage or its legal equivalent.”

Some lawmakers have objected to the second sentence, which they see as prohibiting civil unions. There has been some discussion about dropping the words “or its legal equivalent” to win votes.

However, even if lawmakers approve the marriage amendment today, it has to be approved again by a new legislature and then go to a public vote.

Lawmakers see a potential licensing debacle ahead because the high court says the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples in May. This means the state could issue licenses for more than two years before possibly rendering them illegal with the amendment.

House Speaker Thomas Finneran and other opponents of homosexual “marriage” say they are exploring ways to block marriage licenses from being issued to homosexual couples until after voters have considered the amendment.

Meanwhile, in addition to Massachusetts, lawmakers in at least 13 states — Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin — are considering bills to amend their state constitutions to recognize only traditional marriage.

On Friday, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, Republican, signed a law making Ohio the 38th state with a “defense of marriage act” that defines marriage as union of a man and a woman.

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