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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Reality Check: Marriage Debate
by Bob Roehr
2004-01-14

This article shared 2710 times since Wed Jan 14, 2004
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A handful of prominent Massachusetts legal figures have written to state legislators urging them to pass a law that will carry out the ruling of that state's Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) allowing gays to marry. The letter greeted them at the start of legislative session on Jan. 5.

'We see the SJC's ruling as unequivocal: The existing ban on marriage for gay people is unconstitutional ... . We urge each of you as members of a coordinated branch of government sworn to uphold the constitution, and the rule of law, to use the remainder of the time period in the court's stay to take any and all steps possible to facilitate the orderly issuance of marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples.'

Lawrence Tribe, the constitutional scholar at Harvard University, was the primary drafter of the letter. Signing it were William Weld, the former U.S. Attorney and Republican Governor of Massachusetts; former state attorney general Scott Harshbarger and James M. Shannon; and Renee M. Landers, president of the Boston Bar Association.

All of the signers had made their positions public at earlier dates. However, it is unusual for them to take such a public stance in lobbying the legislators.

Openly gay state Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios has said that he intends to apply for a marriage license when they become available in the spring. He told the Boston Globe that the letter would have a positive effect, though no one is predicting the extent of that effect.

In a Jan. 3 column in the Globe, Patrick Guerriero, a former mayor and Massachusetts state legislator and executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, called the SJC's decision 'a conservative ruling on gay marriage.'

He pointed to the court's argument that 'exclusive unions, recognized by a civil marriage license, will provide greater family stability and a more ordered society. Self-proclaimed pro-family groups should be embracing stable relationships, not encouraging transient ones.'

Guerriero reminded readers that the legislature 'repeatedly failed' to act on lesser legislation, including domestic-partnership and civil-union legislation that he had introduced.

The American Family Association (AFA), based in Tupelo, Miss., has been running 'America's Poll on Homosexual Marriage' on their Web site for the last few weeks. Only votes with a valid e-mail address will be counted. The survey says, 'Results of this poll will be presented to Congress.' But perhaps not, if current results hold up.

More than 800,000 people have voted and so far, the AFA's presumed favorite position—'I oppose legalization of homosexual marriage and 'civil unions''—has garnered only about 32% of the vote. Nearly 60% of those voting 'favor legalization of homosexual marriage.' The vote in favor of 'civil union with the full benefits of marriage except for the name' is coming in at about 8%.

Several listservs and Web sites have been promoting the poll, including the libertarian site at Reason magazine. Under a thread called 'Torture AFA' there has been speculation that the principle purpose of the poll is to gather e-mail addresses to solicit new members for AFA. One poster anticipates receiving one beginning 'attention faggot lovers .. ..'

Meanwhile in Sweden, the official national church, the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden, is preparing a ceremony for same-sex couples. That has prompted international grumbling from nine Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Pentecostal church leaders who have written, 'This action will inevitably affect ecumenical talks and relations in a negative direction.' The letter has not affected plans by the Church of Sweden.


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