CITY & REGION
In a hearing that brought religious leaders against gay-rights activists, the Massachusetts House Judiciary Committee discussed the proposed House Bill 472 at the State House yesterday.
The bill, which would officially ban gay marriage, is seen by supporters as a preemptive strike against gay marriage, and by opponents as an anti-gay statement.
The bill attempts to prevent future interpretations of the current law, which defines legal marriages as being between a man and a woman, but does not specify that marriages cannot be between two members of the same sex.
"You can look at this bill in two ways. First, this can be a yes or no vote on gay marriage. Second, you can look at this as a gratuitous shot at a minority community," said Mark Goshko, president of the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, a gay Republican organization.
Currently, judges in Massachusetts interpret the law to ban same-sex marriages. Twenty-nine states have specific bans against homosexual marriage, while all other states' judges do not recognize it.
Because the bill would have no practical effect, many gay-rights activists say it is a useless piece of anti-gay legislation.
"It targets discrimination on an already vulnerable community," said Jennifer Levi, a staff attorney with the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), a legal advocacy group for gays.
Levi said the gay community is outraged at the possibility of writing discrimination in the Massachusetts constitution.
"[The bill] will make it an open season to make discriminatory statements against gays and lesbians," Levi said.
Other gay-rights advocates agree, saying the bill's ineffectiveness actually adds to its offensiveness.
"This bill doesn't say anything. It doesn't even exclude us from anything. If anything, it excludes us from something we don't have," said Sue Hyde, the New England coordinator of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, centered in Cambridge.
Opponents are also concerned that despite its lack of practical effect, the bill's repercussions could include instigating anti-gay sentiment.
"When people's rights are put up for trial like this, the hatemongers come out of the woodwork and make it a more dangerous place for the rest of us to live," said Rep. Jarrett T. Barrios '90 (D-Cambridge).
"It's about reaffirming the status of gay people as second-class citizens," added Barrios, the state's first openly gay representative.
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