Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Mass. legislature votes to ban gay marriage 

The Massachusetts legislature voted 105-92 yesterday to approve an amendment to the state's constitution that would ban gay marriage, allowing for civil unions instead. The session was filled with legislative wrangling:
The 75 or so legislative supporters of a right to gay marriage, knowing they did not have enough votes for a majority, made use of a strategic gambit throughout the constitutional convention: many of them repeatedly voted for the amendment as it advanced through a series of preliminary votes, their goal being to keep more conservative amendments off the floor.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the whole marriage/civil unions distinction seems more like a matter of definition than an issue of substance. And there's a reasonable argument to be made that gay and lesbian unions should go by a name other than "marriage" -- a term which after all carries substantial religious as well as legal connotations. On the other hand, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has a good point when it says "the history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal." And Alan Hirsch points out that there's more to equality than simply having equal rights.

However things end up in Massachusetts, leaving the issue to the states just doesn't seem like a good solution. Gay couples are just as entitled to the federal benefits of marriage as they are to state benefits, and they shouldn't lose married status if they move to another state. The gay marriage issue ought to be settled in federal courts, just like civil rights.
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