- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Massachusetts lawmakers yesterday passed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to make their state the second in U.S. history to create civil unions for homosexuals.

Lawmakers hope the amendments passage, the first step in a process that could succeed no earlier than November 2006, would increase pressure on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to delay its order that the state begin performing homosexual “marriages” on May 17.

Within moments of the 105-92 vote, Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, said he would seek a formal stay, asking the states high court to delay implementation of its November ruling until after the constitutional amendment process is complete.

“I believe the Supreme Judicial Court has an obligation to the constitution and the people of Massachusetts to withhold this decision, to stay this decision until the people of Massachusetts can make a final determination for themselves,” Mr. Romney told reporters.

The high court has already rejected one attempt by Massachusetts lawmakers to create civil unions, which Vermont did in 2000, as an adequate response to its finding that state marriage law discriminated against homosexuals.

In February, they issued a ruling, at lawmakers request, that said that only legal “marriage” for homosexuals was a sufficient remedy under the state constitution.

Civil unions would create an “unconstitutional, inferior and discriminatory status for same-sex couples,” a 4-3 majority of the high court said in the February decision.

“The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.”

Attorney General Tom Reilly, whose job it is to represent the state in court, said he would not seek the delay on Mr. Romneys behalf.

“It was very clear to me as attorney general that the majority of the Supreme Judicial Court have made up their minds,” he said. “Do I agree with their decision? No. Absolutely not. But that is the law of the state.”

Mr. Romneys press secretary said Mr. Reilly should see the legal arguments first before making any declarations.

“Its highly unusual for the attorney general to make a decision before first looking at the governors request,” spokesman Shawn Feddeman said.

Yesterdays amendment was promoted by Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas Finneran, both Democrats.

It defines civil marriage as “only the union of one man and one woman,” but creates civil unions to provide same-sex couples “with entirely the same benefits, protections, rights, privileges and obligations as are afforded to married persons” under state law. The amendment would not affect the status of homosexual couples under federal law and its marriage benefits.

The amendments approval brought a disapproving roar from activists on both sides of the debate, who packed the Statehouse to watch the proceedings.

Neither side was happy with the outcome.

“I believe many of them are going to feel very ashamed of what theyve just done today,” said Arline Isaacson of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

“Legislators know the people want to vote on the definition of marriage, but instead of giving them a clean bill, they are forcing them to pass civil unions at the same time,” said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.

“In an attempt to please everyone, Massachusetts legislators today pleased no one,” he said, calling the amendment “nothing short of blackmail.”

Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees, a Republican, said the amendment was the best available option.

“There is no single, clear solution to this issue,” Mr. Lees said during yesterdays legislative debate. “If there was such a solution, we wouldnt be here today. But this amendment attempts to strike a balance between those citizens who want to be heard in defining marriage, yet never taking away the rights and benefits of gay and lesbian couples.”

To become law, the new amendment must be passed again by the legislature in its 2005-06 session. After that, it would go before the voters for final approval, no earlier than November 2006.

The high court stayed its Nov. 18 decision legalizing same-sex “marriage” for 180 days, which ends May 17.

Mass Equality, a homosexual rights group, said yesterday that although passing the amendment was a “setback” for “civil rights,” it “does nothing to stop the inevitable that marriage licenses for same-sex couples will be issued in May.”

All 200 seats of the legislature are up for election this fall.

This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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