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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 20, 2005

Happy anniversary

Couples celebrate Massachusetts weddings one year later

Boston--The one-year anniversary of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts came and went on May 17, and the state has not sunk into the Atlantic Ocean.

Same-sex marriage opponents predicted dire things a year ago when the marriages first started being performed.

The destruction of the American family was one of the predicted outcomes.

However, while Ohio has less than twice the population of Massachusetts, it has almost three times as many divorces. Ohio also has one of the country�s most restrictive constitutional bans on same-sex marriage and other protections for such couples.

In Massachusetts, lesbian and gay couples marked the anniversary with celebrations at the Statehouse and other locations. At the capitol, hundreds of couples gathered for a group photo, firing rainbow streamers into the air that unfurled slowly onto the crowd. A reception was held nearby with Boston Mayor Tom Menino and an evening party was scheduled at a downtown hotel.

Same-sex marriage in Massachusetts galvanized the religious right across the country, spurring the passage of 11 state constitutional amendments in the November elections and giving George W. Bush another issue to use against his challenger, Sen. John Kerry.

In Massachusetts, however, the battle over marriage is still far from over as both sides continue to jockey for position.

Last year the legislature passed an anti-marriage amendment that would create civil unions while barring full same-sex marriage.

The measure must pass again this year before it could go to voters in 2006. That vote is set for autumn.

Openly gay State Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios, however, introduced a more restrictive anti-marriage amendment that would not allow for civil unions to force legislators to take sides in the debate.

Barrios� amendment was written by two staunch same-sex marriage foes in the House. If it drains enough votes from the earlier compromise amendment, both measures would likely die, since the harsher one has nowhere near enough support to pass.

Anti-gay groups in the state are also trying to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on a third amendment barring same-sex marriage.

The Massachusetts Family Institute would need to gather 68,000 signatures to send their proposed amendment to the legislature, where it would need the support of 51 lawmakers to go to voters in 2008, as opposed to the 101 votes necessary to pass last year�s compromise amendment.

To date, over 6,100 same-sex couples have been wed in Massachusetts since May 17, 2004. About two-thirds of these are lesbian couples.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November 2003 that it was unconstitutional to deny them access to marriage. It delayed the ruling�s effect for six months.

Fourteen amendments have been passed by other states to bar same-sex marriages since the Massachusetts ruling took effect, joining four already in place. But many other proposed state amendments have failed to make it past legislators.

Connecticut last month passed a civil union law. Unlike Vermont and Massachusetts, the state�s recognition of same-sex couples was not in response to a court mandate. A California domestic partner law very similar to civil unions took effect in January, while Maine and New Jersey also passed partner laws last year.

And on May 14, the Democratic Party in Massachusetts officially endorsed the Supreme Judicial Court decision allowing same-sex marriage.

The party�s candidates for governor, Attorney General Tom Reilly and former federal civil rights enforcer Deval Patrick, staked out political terrain as they addressed the delegates at the Democratic convention.

"There are lots of other issues for us to deal with than a death penalty we don't have and gay marriage, which the Supreme Judicial Court has said is legal," said Patrick, who was President Clinton's chief civil rights enforcer.

Reilly originally opposed gay marriage but now says it's time for the state to move on.



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