Thursday, September 15, 2005

Massachusetts rejects same-sex marriage ban

Excellent news for proponents of the legalization of same-sex marriage from the state I once called home:

In a sign that the legalization of same-sex marriage has changed the political landscape in Massachusetts, the legislature soundly defeated a proposed constitutional amendment on Wednesday to ban gay marriage and create civil unions, an amendment that lawmakers gave preliminary approval to in a raucous constitutional convention last year.

Wednesday's 157-to-39 vote by a joint session of the House and Senate partly reflected the fact that some legislators now consider same-sex marriage more politically acceptable, after a largely conflict-free year in which some 6,600 same-sex couples got married and lawmakers who supported it got re-elected.

The vote also reflected some lawmakers' reluctance to pass a bill that could either withdraw rights from already married couples or create a class of married gay men and lesbians and a class of those unable to marry.

The fight isn't over yet, however:

Last year some legislators who opposed both same-sex marriage and civil unions voted for the amendment because they considered it their best chance at preserving marriage for heterosexuals.

This year, after it appeared that the amendment would fail, many opponents of same-sex marriage started a citizens' petition for a stricter amendment that would ban same-sex marriage without creating civil unions.

The earliest that amendment, endorsed by Gov. Mitt Romney, could become law is 2008. Supporters must get 65,000 signatures, the votes of 50 lawmakers in two consecutive legislative sessions and the approval of voters in a referendum. Both sides expect a difficult fight.

As you may know, especially if you're a regular reader of The Reaction, Canada legalized same-sex marriage over the summer. The fight for what I consider a basic right will be longer and tougher in the U.S., even in more liberal states like Massachusetts, but there is simply no turning back at this point. And rightly so. In the end, gay and lesbian couples will be treated just like their heterosexual counterparts. And America will be all the better for it.

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