Massachusetts Revisits 'Marriages'; Constitutional Amendments Back before Legislators

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Massachusetts lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene today to debate constitutional amendments on homosexual "marriage," a month after an earlier session that failed to approve such a proposal.

In that month, though, the national political landscape has changed, with the issue spreading like wildfire as local officials from California to New York have issued "marriage" licenses to homosexual couples, prompting rebukes from state officials and court battles.

In Massachusetts, the 199 legislators are likely to consider a compromise amendment that affirms traditional marriage and mandates the creation of a civil-union system in Massachusetts.

A rumored backup plan is to offer two separate amendments - one that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and another that supports the creation of civil unions.

Traditional-values groups oppose the compromise amendment, which is being offered by Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas Finneran, but are likely to support the two-amendment approach.

"We want a one-subject amendment, a 'clean' amendment" on marriage, said Ronald Crews, head of the Coalition for Marriage. "Don't confuse folks" by asking them to vote on marriage and also agree to civil unions, he said.

Homosexual rights groups oppose any amendments because they see them as an attempt "to erase" the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's Nov. 18 decision that legalizes same-sex "marriage."

The "heterosexual majority" should not be allowed "to revoke, by popular vote, the civil rights of a minority," said the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. Nor should lawmakers establish "a separate, inferior 'less-than-marriage' status only for gay and lesbian couples," said the group, which opposes civil unions.

Mr. Travaglini, who will run the constitutional convention, and Mr. Finneran have both said that lobbying and vote counts were continuing, but that things were "fluid. …