Monday, May 17, 2004

Gay Marriage

Apparently the legislature in Taxachusets wasn't going fast enough for the State Supreme Court. So they went and made their own laws. Now let's be clear, I would never suppose to sit here at my keyboard and tell somebody what they should or should not do with their lives. It's their business. If a gay or lesbian couple want to spend the rest of their lives together then frankly me dear, I don't give a damn. My problem is when people try to skirt the law to suit their own wants. The power to make law belongs to the legislative branch, not the judicial branch. And yet four judges took it upon themselves to go and make law. CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Two by two they emerged from City Hall, the nation's first gay couples set to legally marry Monday, breaking a barrier many never believed would fall and putting the United States among four countries where gays can marry.
With the passage of a midnight deadline, Massachusetts became the first state to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples Monday. Quick court action waiving the required three-day waiting period meant that some marriages would take place by midday.

Cambridge was the only city to seize the first possible moment at midnight. It opened its offices to 260 couples and even supplied a giant wedding cake as thousands of sign-waving well-wishers cheered into the wee hours.

Judges began issuing waivers of the usual three-day waiting period as soon as court sessions began hours later, allowing some of the couples to begin tying the knot later in the day. They would first have to trek back to City Hall to pick up the marriage license, then find someone to perform the ceremony.

In Cambridge, the honor went first to Tanya McCloskey, 52, and Marcia Kadish, 56, of Malden, who have been together for 18 years and waited in line outside of the courthouse starting at 6:30 a.m.

The waiver is usually a perfunctory request that is rarely rejected, but took on added significance under the glare of media attention from around the world.

"Somewhere, someone's working really hard to find that loophole," to quash the gay-wedding march, said Baxter Brooke, 35, of Cambridge, who hoped to wed her partner, Sonia Hendrickson, 36, on Monday. "We're worried that it's not going to last."

Other Monday wedding plans included the seven couples who brought the lawsuit that eventually led the state's highest court to declare gay marriage legal.

The first couple to receive marriage paperwork at midnight was Marcia Hams, 56, and her partner, Susan Shepherd, 52, of Cambridge. After 27 years together, they sat at a table across from a city official shortly after midnight, filling out forms as their adult son looked on.

"I feel really overwhelmed," Hams said as they left the clerk's office and walked through a throng of reporters. "I could collapse at this point."

Massachusetts was thrust into the center of a nationwide debate on gay marriage when the state's Supreme Judicial Court issued its 4-3 ruling in November that gays and lesbians have a right under the state constitution to wed.

In the days leading up to Monday's deadline for same-sex weddings to begin, opponents looked to the federal courts for help in overturning the ruling. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene.

The SJC's ruling emboldened officials in San Francisco, upstate New York, and Portland, Ore., to issue marriage licenses as acts of civil disobedience earlier this year. Even though courts ordered a halt to the wedding march, opponents pushed for a federal constitutional gay marriage ban, which President Bush has endorsed.

The SJC's ruling also galvanized opponents of gay marriage in Massachusetts, prompting lawmakers in this heavily Democrat, Roman Catholic state to adopt a state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage but legalize Vermont-style civil unions. But to take effect, it must get by another legislative session as well as voters. The earliest it could wind up on the ballot is 2006, possibly casting a shadow on the legality of perhaps thousands of gay marriages that take place in the intervening years.

As of Monday, Massachusetts joins the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada's three most populous provinces as the only places worldwide where gays can marry. The rest of Canada is expected to follow soon.

Married couples are entitled to hundreds of right and protections under Massachusetts law, including the ability to file joint state tax returns, automatic preference for making medical decisions for a disabled spouse and workers' compensation benefits. But other rights, such as the ability to jointly file a federal tax return, are not available because federal law defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Early Monday morning, police estimated that more than 5,000 people had descended on City Hall in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston and home to Harvard University. Besides scores of reporters, many in the crowd were family and friends; others simply wanted to join the party and express support.

Police said the crowds were orderly, and no arrests were reported. About 15 protesters, most from Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church, stood near City Hall carrying signs. The group, led by the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., travels around the country protesting homosexuality.

Do Taxpayers Buy Straight Couples' Cakes?

But the atmosphere was overwhelmingly festive. People cheered and held signs reading "Yay!" and urged couples to kiss as they left City Hall. The city provided a giant wedding cake for couples, many of whom had waited in line for hours.

"We came here because I've been waiting seven years, and I don't want to wait another day, another second," said Alex Fennell, 27 a Boston lawyer marrying Sasha Hartman, 29. "For me, it's excitement and gratitude. It's nothing I ever thought we would be able to do."

Hillary and Julie Goodridge, namesakes of the landmark lawsuit that started it all, tried to get a marriage license in Boston three years ago but were turned down. This time, Mayor Thomas Menino planned to greet them at Boston City Hall, where they were expected first thing Monday morning.

Out-of-state gay couples are likely to challenge Massachusetts' 1913 marriage statute, which Gov. Mitt Romney, a gay-marriage opponent, has cited to limit marriages to only Massachusetts residents. The law bars out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if the union would be illegal in their home state.

Eager to Break the Law

Several local officials, including those in Provincetown, Worcester and Somerville, have said they will not enforce Romney's order and will give licenses to any couples who ask, as long as they sign the customary affidavit attesting that they know of no impediment to their marriage.

Both sides in the debate say the issue might figure prominently in the November elections across the country.

Candidates for Congress could face pressure to explain their position on the proposed federal constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.

Voters in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Missouri and Utah, and probably several other states, will consider similar amendments to their state constitutions.

But the possibility of future bans didn't faze Chris McCary, 43, and his partner, John Sullivan, 37, who came to Provincetown to get married, despite that their union won't be recognized back home in Alabama.

"This is the most important day of my life," McCary said. "This window could be closed in the future, but it's still worth it."

© 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

The point is that the current law does not recognize gay marriage. Now if the legislature changes the law, then we have no problems.

My main problem with the issue is why marriage is seeminly so important. Some gay/lesbian couples simply want that extra recognition as a symbol of their relationship. Others want the benefits of being married that straight couples currently get. This is where the problem comes in; at least my problem anyway. Marriage has become about benefits, taxes, and entitlements, from the government. All of which I personally am opposed to. Don't get me wrong; I'm married, and I enjoy being married. But for the first reason I mentioned. Marriage shouldn't be about taxes or tax breaks or entitlements. I gaurentee if you removed these "benefits" the group screaming for gay marriage would be reduced. You would be left with those that want to married for personal reasons and that's what it should be about.

Think I'm being a homophobe? Go over to Right Rainbow and see what Paul has to say.