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Proposed Anti-Gay Amendment Divides Onetime Allies


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Proposed Anti-Gay Amendment Divides Onetime Allies

by Margo Williams 365Gay.com Boston Bureau

Posted: November 11, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Boston, Massachusetts) A serious rift has developed between two leading opponents of same-sex marriage.

While Gov. Mitt Romney was in Washington attacking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and promoting a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions at a conference of conservative lawyers, state Rep. Eugene L. O'Flaherty, a longtime key opponent of same-sex marriage was announcing he will no longer support the amendment.

In an interview with Boston LGBT newspaper Bay Windows, O'Flaherty (D-Chelsea) said that after hearing from constituents, including a gay man whose wedding he attended, he believes the amendment is draconian and unnecessary.

The major sticking point for O'Flaherty is the ban on civil unions that the proposed amendment carries.

When a proposed amendment put forward by lawmakers that would ban gay marriage but permit civil unions came to a vote in a joint session O'Flaherty was one of the main backers. The measure failed in September. (story)

He now tells the paper that it is time to move on.

"I want to try to dispose of this issue," he told Bay Windows. "It's occupied the last three years of my life; a lot of time, a lot of energy and I'd like to apply that to healthcare. I'd like to apply that to some of the other issues that we have in front of us, that as far as I'm concerned, are much more important to our constituents at this point."

Supporters of the amendment that includes a ban on civil unions have begun collecting the signatures of at least 65,825 Massachusetts voters required to put the issue before voters.

The names must be turned in by Thanksgiving. Even if supporters get enough signatures the proposed amendment would still need to return to a joint session of the legislature.

With a citizen based referendum the amendment needs the support of only 50 lawmakers - 25 percent of the House and Senate - in two constitutional conventions for it to go to voters.

O'Flaherty told the paper that as House chair of the legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary he will recommend that the legislation not be passed.

But while O'Flaherty was changing his position, Gov. Mitt Romney was in Washington addressing the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention.

The Republican governor who has presidential aspirations for 2008, has been the other major opponent of same-sex marriage and the Supreme Judicial Court for ruling gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to wed.

In his harshest attack to date on the four justices who wrote the majority decision in the Massachusetts marriage ruling Romney accused them of promoting their personal values and those of ''their like-minded friends in the communities they socialize in."

''If a judge substitutes his or her values for those values that were placed in the constitution, they do so at great peril to the culture of our entire land," Romney said.

The remarks won applause from the 500 lawyers in the audience. The Federalist Society is the most conservative legal group in the country and has ties to the GOP. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has addressed the group in the past.

During Senate confirmation hearings for newly installed Chief Justice John Roberts it was revealed that Roberts had been at one time been a member of the steering committee in the group's Washington chapter - something Roberts told Senators he did not recall.

When Romney was being introduced at the Federalist Society he was described as the head of a state run by the "KKK ... the Kerry, Kennedy Klan". The remark was immediately attacked by Massachusetts Democrats.

"It is embarrassing that Gov. Mitt Romney would laugh at any joke that disparages Catholics, African Americans, and Jews," said Phil Johnston, the state Democratic Party chair.

Although Romney laughed at the KKK reference at the time he issued an apology after it was criticized.

Last week in Austin, Texas the Ku Klux Klan held a rally to denounce gays and call for support of a constitutional amendment in that state banning gay marriage. The measure passed in Tuesday's election.

Under equally harsh criticism over his attack on gay marriage and the Supreme Judicial Court justices Romney told reporters at a Veterans Day service at the State House that he was chastising the justices generically not personally.

"The judiciary should be grounded in the constitution and the law and precedents, and if there's going to be a change from that base, it should be made by the Legislature and the people," he said.

"I think the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court erred by reading into our constitution something that was clearly not there. They found a right that John Adams would be very surprised to suggest that it was found within our constitution ... and they instead looked at their own values and the values of the community which they associate with -- the community at-large."

©365Gay.com 2005


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