Gay Marriage and History
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
March 4, 2004

The attention of much of the world is now focused on Massachusetts, as the Legislature endeavors to respond to the Supreme Judicial Court's finding that gay marriage is not prohibited under the state constitution. The legislature need not respond at all: the system of checks and balances clearly supports the Court's actions in this matter. Nonetheless, the Legislature has seen fit to involve itself, and I have watched closely as my local representatives struggle with their decisions. One has chosen to be disowned by a family member rather than stay out of this battle. The other has conferred extensively with people in our district, and has decided to follow their lead, in order to stay safely in the "mainstream" and avoid the "extremes" of the left and the right. His comments appear below my own response.

Here is my reply to that senator::

Dear Sen. Pacheco:

I read with interest the comments you made during recent debate on the issue of marriage. I understand the difficulty of the position you and the rest of the legislature is in. In the short run, it appears that you face a no-win proposition. I would suggest, however, that in the long-run, history is on the side of extending the benefits of marriage to all people.
You commented that you wished to follow the mainstream, rather than the "far left" or the "far right." This reminded me of my experience studying U.S. history around the age of 12 or so. It was at that time that I realized our history was a series of events by which the mainstream got steadily redefined. Ideas that were radical in one generation became mainstream in the next. Often, courts, civil disobedience, or other means were needed to extend the promise of liberty to those who had been denied it in the past. Rarely -- if ever -- were liberties extended as the result of a referendum.
My marriage of almost 17 years is in no way threatened by the prospect of the many gay or lesbian couples I know getting married. My own internal peace is far more threatened knowing that the children I know in such families are denied the benefits of having married parents, not through any fault of their own, but by society's rather narrow view of what a family is.
It has been during our lifetime that "activist" courts forced the U.S. to recognize inter-racial marriage. At the time, only a small percentage of people on the "left" supported the decision. I dare say we would not have inter-racial marriage today if we had waited for referenda or legislative action. It is just not the sort of thing that arises from the mainstream.
I sincerely hope that when debate is renewed on this issue you will vote on the side of history, on the side of religious freedom, and in support of marriage. Marriage for all, that is.
Thank you for your consideration.

James Hayes-Bohanan

Senator Pacheco's remarks at the Constitutional Convention

I rise in support of this amendment. I voted earlier for the amendment offered by the Speaker. But this amendment provides even greater equity and fairness.

This includes civil unions for insurance, health care, all those other issues. My friends, there are citizens of the state today even before the court ruled who have benefits granted to them by their employers as part of collective bargaining.

We have a compromise proposal that does three things: first, it preserves the definition of marriage as one man and one woman. Second, it takes care of the interests of existing people who already have rights accrued to them and affords them in the future. Third, it gives the citizens a voice and a vote.

In my district, I met with members of the Roman Catholic Church in my district. They told me they wanted marriage defined as the union of one man and one woman. What do I say to the others who already have benefits from their employers? They said, I have no problem with the individuals having those benefits. They said they were fine with that, so long as it was not defined as marriage.

Obviously, Lees and Travaglini [authors of the compromise amendment] did not speak to this group. We know those on the far left and right will not embrace this issue. But if one applies common sense and good listening skills, the mainstream average citizen is saying to us marriage should be one man and one woman, but we want to take care of the average rights of our citizens.

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