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For a while, it seemed as though Massachusetts Gov. W. Mitt Romney would stop at nothing to deny homosexuals in the Commonwealth the right to marry. After the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) deemed same-sex marriage a constitutional right in this state in November, Romney sought to keep marriage a strictly heterosexual institution, offering same-sex couples instead the right to join in “civil unions,” which would grant many of the benefits of marriage without the title. But Romney’s efforts—which were little more than a petty, underhanded attempt to stall for time—were thwarted yesterday, when the SJC ruled that civil unions just wouldn’t cut it.
Now Romney and anti-gay activists only have one way to stop gay marriage in Massachusetts: a constitutional amendment. Though the state legislature is scheduled to vote on such an amendment in a little less than a week, opponents of same-sex marriage should realize that it’s time to give up their long-outdated fight.
The arguments for and against gay marriage are surely familiar to nearly all by now. Those who oppose it insist that gay marriage is corrosive of family values and that homosexuals are deviants unsuited to raise children. Those of us who favor gay marriage are constantly repeating the obvious to counter such backward claims—that homosexuality is not intrinsically wrong and that if we want to strengthen families, the last thing we should do is deprive citizens of an institution that can facilitate strong family bonds. Indeed, it is sad that we have to continue fighting the same kind of flawed, regressive logic that social conservatives have used for centuries to deprive whole sections of the population of fundamental rights—from opponents of interracial marriage and the Civil Rights Act 40 years ago to foes of women’s suffrage 85 years ago. The reactionaries were wrong then, and they are wrong now.
But we expect that Romney and his cohorts, too, will find these arguments familiar—and too easy to brush off. So it is up to the state legislature to stop the proposed amendment, for the sake of much more than Massachusetts’s gay community. Now that President Bush seems set on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage, the legislature has the opportunity to set an important precedent for gay people across the nation—by rejecting the bigoted arguments of anti-gay activists.
Throughout this country’s history, great leaps of social progress, from emancipation to the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements, have almost always been achieved through the enfranchisement of those who have traditionally been oppressed. Surely, an amendment banning gay marriage in Massachusetts would be a significant step backward, both for the state and the nation as a whole.
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