February 12, 2004
Opinion/Editorial (page 8)
Presidential candidates waffle on Mass same-sex marriage ruling [Not my title, but i don't have any serious issue with it.]
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently affirmed what many people had suspected from the beginning: that compliance with its ruling in “Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health” necessitates full marriage rights for same-sex couples, not just civil unions, which Vermont ruled in 2000 [my original “as resulted in Vermont after a similar ruling in 2000” made much more sense, but whatever]. This adds strengthens the growing movement not only for a Massachusetts constitutional amendment, but also a revision of the idea of marriage between man and woman [I wrote “but also a national one defining marriage as between a man and a woman” which makes my following sentence make more sense -- among other reasons as to why it’s superior to the printed ending.].
I don’t expect any of the Democratic candidates for president to voice support for these amendments or any like them. What will be interesting is what the Democrats will say they do support. I expect the Massachusetts primaries on March 2 will show a backlash against Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, as he supports civil unions but opposes same-sex marriage. However, none of the candidates are on record as supporting same-sex marriage, though most do support civil unions.
Howard Dean has made much of the fact that he passed a civil unions bill in Vermont despite its unpopularity. However, while stating that he believes gays deserve equal rights, he opposes same-sex marriage. Even conservative Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has recognized the need for domestic partnership status to be recognized in a way that allows for such things as health benefits and rights of survivorship, which is amazing progress from even 20 years ago. However, very few powerful politicians have gone on record as recognizing what the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognized: that barring same-sex couples from marriage, even if under the guise of allowing “separate but equal” civil unions is inherently unequal.
The Massachusetts decision has pushed the same-sex marriage issue to further prominence at the national level and many fear it is too much too fast, that those who would otherwise be allies will now support such measures as a national marriage amendment. In part because many versions of the proposed national amendment would not allow same-sex couples anything even similar to marriage, I suspect that all the Democratic candidates will stick to their spiel about supporting civil unions but drawing the line at marriage without actually endorsing a Constitutional amendment. And as long as there is no real disagreement amongst the front-runners, this will not become a major issue in the nomination decision.