Marriage Ban Clears Hurdle

Jessica E. Zbikowski

Ryan P. McAuliffe ’06 joins members of Harvard’s Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) and the Harvard College Democrats outside the Mass. State House to participate in a rally yesterday against a proposed state amendme

BOSTON—A small contingent of Harvard students joined thousands of demonstrators on Boston Common yesterday as the State Legislature granted preliminary approval to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

The delegation from Harvard’s Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) marked the group’s second activist foray to Boston since a November Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruling that declared same-sex marriages legal under the state constitution as it currently stands.

“I was shocked with myself that I hadn’t done enough already,” said Joseph R. Geschlecht ’06 as he waved a rainbow flag. “I hadn’t been doing a whole lot of productive stuff. It occurred to me this isn’t an abstract debate. It directly affects my life.”

“It’s important that we get off campus and be part of the actual demonstrations and not only the theoretical debates,” said BGLTSA political chair Jordan B. Woods ’06, who organized the trip.

BGLTSA members also demonstrated at the first round of the constitutional convention last month, which ended after three proposed amendments banning gay marriage stalled in the Legislature.

Last night’s amendment, which prohibits gay marriage but allows civil unions for same-sex couples, survived three votes but must be cleared once more by state lawmakers at the end of the month and again by a newly-elected Legislature in 2005-2006.

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It would then be put to a statewide referendum.

Several prominent gay marriage supporters—including State Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios ’90—at first voted in favor of last night’s ban in an attempt to block less favorable versions from coming to the floor. The final bill was opposed both by gay rights activists and by some opponents of same-sex marriage who thought the inclusion of civil unions in the bill could imperil the amendment when it goes to the voters.

Major conservative groups on campus chose not to attend yesterday’s rallies, and only about 20 students turned out with the BGLTSA.

Although the turnout was less than the 50 students organizers had expected, those who did make the trek into the city said the trip was worth it.

“This really is the civil rights issue of our generation,” Undergraduate Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05 said. Mahan, who is not a member of BGLTSA but has demonstrated at both rallies, said that he supports full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“These people are good human beings, and they deserve all the benefits of marriage and all the legal sanctions that come with it,” he said.

ON THE COMMON

By noontime, the steps off the Common leading up to Park Street were packed with people. Demonstrators, sporting stickers and signs, lined both sides of the street, which had been siphoned off to one lane by Boston police.

Cheers and chants filled the air, and many demonstrators screamed at the top of their lungs, standing in the shadow of the Mass. State House’s golden dome and red-brick façade.

The Harvard students made their way past a police officer on horseback silently watching the proceedings. They were armed with rainbow flags and handmade signs plastered with slogans. “No discrimination in the Constitution,” read one. “God Created Adam and Yves,” declared another.