Gov. Contenders Woo GLBTs

Patrick, Gabrieli advocate allowing same-sex couples from out-of-state to marry

GUBERNATORIAL GABBING
Hillary W. Berkowitz

Deval Patrick ’78 (right) and Chris Gabrieli ’81, participate in the Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial GLBT Forum. The Forum was sponsored by “In Newsweekly,” Boston Pride, The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and HLS Lambda.

Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates who are courting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) voters took their campaigns to Harvard Law School yesterday, while a third contender, whose relations with the GLBT community have been strained, was notably absent.

Deval L. Patrick ’78 and Christopher F. O. Gabrieli ’81 both said they would allow Massachusetts to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples from out-of-state. That would require the repeal of a 1913 law—a law that the third candidate, State Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, has enforced.

The 1913 law bars Massachusetts from issuing marriage licenses to couples who couldn’t legally get married in their home states.

Patrick—a onetime Dunster resident, former litigator for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights in the Clinton administration—said that the law had “suspect origins” and was originally intended to prevent out-of-state interracial couples from marrying.

Gabrieli, a former Eliot resident and businessman, said that gay marriage is “an asset to our state,” citing research by George Mason University Professor Richard Florida that correlates higher numbers of gay residents to greater economic prosperity.

According to James Lopata, editor of GLBT magazine “In Newsweekly” and a forum organizer, a Reilly campaign press officer said a scheduling conflict kept the state attorney general from attending.

The candidates were speaking yesterday afternoon at a forum sponsored by Lambda, the Law School’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students’ organization, as well as three other groups.

Both Harvard alums sometimes seemed as though they were speaking with one voice. As Gabrieli himself commented at the end of the debate, “I don’t think there’s much difference between Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrieli on these issues we’ve discussed today.”

Both said that a proposed Massachusetts constitutional ban on gay marriage shouldn’t be put to a referendum.

“I’ve always thought that you don’t put issues of minority rights to a majority vote,” Patrick told The Crimson before the start of the debate.

Gabrieli later echoed his opponent, saying that “I would prefer to see the legislature vote to defeat [the bill].”

The bill, which would create a public referendum on a constitutional ban of the marriages, is scheduled to go before the state legislature on November 9, two days after the general gubernatorial election.

Patrick now leads the Democratic primary race—which will culminate on September 19—with 45 percent of the vote, compared to Gabrieli’s 29 percent and Reilly’s 21 percent, according to a recent CBS poll.

Panelists from Lambda, In Newsweekly, and GLBT-rights group Boston Pride raised many questions relating to the treatment of transgender individuals.

Gabrieli emphasized that his campaign work had taught him much about the lives of transgender citizens, while Patrick said he was “still trying to get his head around” transgenderism itself. Still, they agreed that extending public school hours in Massachusetts would allow more time to teach students about tolerance for all people, including transgender individuals, and that hate crime legislation should be extended to explicitly protect transgender crime victims.

“It’s about understanding that we can be in one intact community,” Patrick said, “and value and respect our differences.”

Despite the forum’s lack of friction, event organizers were pleased. Alexis I. Caloza ’04, the Lambda political chair and a second-year law student, described the forum as “an amazing opportunity to hear the candidates speak to the LGBT community.”

—Staff writer Nicholas K. Tabor can be reached at ntabor@fas.harvard.edu.

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