In Massachusetts: Same-sex couples set to wed in May

Despite potential setbacks, gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed in the state of Massachusetts in a matter of weeks. On May 17 marriage licenses will be issued to same-sex partners, the result of the November 2003 state’s Supreme Judicial Court decision that civil unions were unconstitutional. Republican Gov. Mitt Romney has threatened to stop the licenses by court injunction, but state Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly has declined to act on such a move.

In the meantime, state agencies are preparing for the state’s first legal same-sex marriages. In addition to making forms gender-neutral, agencies are reviewing rules on items such as insurance and lottery winnings and revising tax forms for 2005, the first year same-sex couples will be able to file joint tax returns.

On March 29 the state Legislature voted 105-92 to amend the state’s constitution to ban gay marriage while the proposed amendment upheld civil unions. The “compromise” will go before a constitutional convention in 2005 and, if passed there, before the state’s voters in 2006.

MassEquality, a coalition of groups working in support of same-sex marriage, called the measure discriminatory and a setback for civil rights.

In next-door Rhode Island, House Majority Leader Gordon Fox surprised many by announcing that he is gay. Fox, the co-sponsor of legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, came out during a rally in support of the bill. The state’s Legislature is also debating a bill that would ban same-sex marriages.

In Georgia, after the debate stalled earlier in the month, the state House voted 122-52, March 31, to ban gay marriage. The ban will be put before voters in this November’s election. The constitutional amendment would also ban any same-sex unions.

Leaders of the civil rights movement testified before a Senate committee on the issue of a federal constitutional ban. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a leader of the historic march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, said, “We have been down this road before in this country. The right to liberty and happiness belongs to each of us and on the same terms, without regard to either skin color or sexual orientation.”

While speaking in Pomona, N.J., Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke out against a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

“Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union,” King said. “A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.”

The author can be reached at jbarnett@pww.org.