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June 1, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 22
 
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Massachusetts: Showdown over marriage equality likely - Legislators to meet June 14 over state-wide vote on constitutional ban
Massachusetts: Showdown over marriage equality likely - Legislators to meet June 14 over state-wide vote on constitutional ban
by Lisa Keen - SGN Contributing Writer

Massachusetts is just three weeks away from a critical showdown over marriage in its state legislature. On June 14, the state senate and house will meet to take a second and final vote on whether to put on the November 2008 ballot a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Opponents of equal marriage rights for Gay couples need just 50 votes --25 percent of the legislature's 200 votes-- to succeed. In January, following a surprise decision by the Senate president to vote on the measure, they got 62. But there's a new Senate president, a new Democratic governor, and fewer votes at the ready this time around.

Depending on who's talking and when, Gay activists say they have changed the minds of between five and ten of the 13 legislators they need to change their votes vote "no" this time around. Supporters of the constitutional ban swear they have a rock solid 53 votes in favor.

Gay activists are going "full throttle" to defeat the ban on in the legislature, convinced that they have almost no chance of defeating it at the ballot box. Given that only one state (Arizona) out of 27 which have voted on constitutional amendments has defeated the bans, the anxiety is understandable.

MassEquality, a group spearheading efforts to stop the ban from reaching the ballot, has begun airing advertisements on local stations, explaining the need for equal marriage rights. Democratic Governor Deval Patrick has made his opposition to the proposed ban very public and, last week declared May 17 -the third anniversary of same-sex marriage licensing in the state-- "Marriage Equality Day."

Speaking to a rally of same-sex marriage supporters, he said the vote June 14, if successful, would lead to a paralyzing "political circus" leading up to the ballot vote and trigger a "poisonous debate" throughout the state.

Meanwhile, the state's new Democratic Attorney General, Martha Coakley, is taking a decidedly more aggressive approach to the proposed ban than did her Democratic predecessor. Coakley says that, if the ban reaches the ballot and passes, she will support a legal challenge of its constitutionality.

And, in other marriage developments:

- a state district court judge in Massachusetts on May 10 declared valid any same-sex couples from New York State who obtained marriage licenses in Massachusetts before former Governor Mitt Romney began enforcing a 1913 law to stop them and before New York's highest court ruled against same-sex marriage. Last year, the same judge ruled that Gay couples from Rhode Island could also consider their licenses valid since Rhode Island has not created any policy concerning same-sex marriages.

- in North Carolina, Republican legislators were able to push through a proposed constitutional ban in a House committee this week. The legislation has been pending for four years, according to the News Observer of Raleigh and could reach the floor late this week. North Carolina has a statutory law prohibiting same-sex marriage but is one of only two southern states which has not passed a constitutional ban (Florida is the other).

- an effort to pass a pro-Gay marriage bill in Connecticut was dropped this week. Legislators supporting the measure noted that Republican Governor Jodi Rell had promised to veto it if it passed.



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