Massachusetts legislators took a significant step on Monday toward banning gay “marriage,” but at the cost of legalizing “civil unions,” in a decision that has not pleased any side of the debate.
The 105-92 vote in favor of banning gay “marriage” as stated by the state’s Supreme Court, is the first step in a process that will require two and a half years to become an amendment to the State’s constitution, the oldest in the country.
Governor Mitt Romney announced immediately after the vote that he will ask the state's highest court to delay the implementation of its November ruling which ordered that same-sex marriages should begin on May 17.
“I believe the Supreme Judicial Court has an obligation to the constitution and the people of Massachusetts to withhold this decision, to stay this decision until the people of Massachusetts can make a final determination for themselves,” Romney said.
Without such action, Monday’s decision would not affect the court’s deadline, thus creating a conflict between the two powers in the state.
Many pro-family activists opposed the solution, arguing that it requires citizens to vote on two different issues in one single vote: a gay marriage ban and legalization of civil unions.
“We are giving the people a false choice,” said state Rep. Vinny deMacedo, a Republican. “We're saying, ‘problem, you can vote to define marriage as between a man and a woman, but the only way you can do it is if you create civil unions that are entirely the same as marriage.’”
“Ultimately, if this ever makes it to the ballot, it will fail,” he added.
The new bill specifies that civil unions will receive some new rights that Mass. current laws do not consider, but would not grant federal benefits to gay couples.
The vote must be affirmed again during the next two-year session following this fall's elections, when all 200 seats of the Legislature are open. Voters must then approve the proposed amendment in the fall of 2006.