For Immediate Release:
Thursday, June 14, 2007
MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE DEFEATS DISCRIMINATORY ANTI-MARRIAGE AMENDMENT
Proposed Amendment Would Have Rolled Back Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples
WASHINGTON - Today, during a joint session, Massachusetts lawmakers voted 151 to 45 to defeat a measure that would have placed a discriminatory, anti-marriage constitutional amendment before voters on the November 2008 ballot. The proposed amendment threatened to undo the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's historic 2003 decision making the state the first to recognize marriage equality for same-sex couples.
"This proposed constitutional amendment was a misguided attempt to put people's equal rights to a vote. We are grateful that the overwhelming majority of Massachusetts legislators rejected this divisive measure," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Today's vote is a reaffirmation of Massachusetts' proud record of choosing equality over discrimination. For the past three years, loving and committed same-sex couples have enjoyed the equal right to marry in Massachusetts. Despite the doomsday predictions of opponents of equality, the sky hasn't fallen, and no one's marriage has been threatened. To the contrary, the institution of marriage has been strengthened as same-sex couples and their families have enjoyed the equal rights and protections they deserve under Massachusetts law. The Legislature's action ensures that they will continue to enjoy those equal rights and protections."
The Massachusetts state constitution requires that just one-fourth of elected legislators approve an "initiative amendment" (a proposed constitutional amendment introduced in the Legislature by initiative petition signed by a specified number of voters), in consecutive joint legislative sessions before the proposed amendment goes to the voters. Opponents of equality gathered signatures to place the proposed anti-marriage amendment before the Legislature by initiative petition. Last January, 62 of the state's 200 legislators voted in favor of the proposed amendment, which would define marriage "only as the union of one man and one woman." If 50 or more legislators had voted in favor of the proposed amendment today, it would have been placed before the voters on the 2008 ballot.
Solmonese added: "We hope that this decisive vote puts to an end, once and for all, attempts to bypass the Supreme Judicial Court's historic decision in the Goodridge case. The system worked the court did its job by applying the state constitution to guarantee equal protection for all Massachusetts citizens and legislators did their job by defeating the anti-marriage amendment, which sought to return same-sex couples to second-class status. Now, we look forward to seeing other states join Massachusetts in recognizing marriage equality and putting an end to discrimination against same-sex couples and their families."
Today's vote comes as other states are considering providing equal marriage rights to same-sex couples under state law. Earlier this month, the California state Assembly passed a bill that would provide same-sex couples with the equal right to marry under state law. Marriage equality legislation has also been introduced and is still pending in Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act denies the equal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples under federal law.
"Today, the Legislature made a powerful statement that it's wrong to vote on rights," said Marc Solomon, campaign director for MassEquality, a coalition of local and national organizations defending equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts. "This is a day for all of Massachusetts to celebrate. We thank the Human Rights Campaign for its early and significant support of MassEquality. HRC's contributions of financial resources and staff time were critical parts of our campaign to defeat this dangerous amendment."
The Human Rights Campaign is proud to have partnered with MassEquality to work to defeat the anti-marriage amendment. Since the Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision in 2003, the Human Rights Campaign has invested more than $1 million in the work of MassEquality. In the weeks leading up to today's vote, HRC sent four staff members to Massachusetts, who devoted hundreds of hours to defeating the discriminatory amendment.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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