Save Marriage Rights in Massachusetts

Today is a significant day for retaining marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth’s Constitutional Convention meets this afternoon to deliberate and possibly vote on whether or not to move closer to ballot referendum a proposed constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be only between one man and one woman.

As expected, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has continued to lobby against the rights of gay and lesbian citizens. Below is a letter to the editor of the archdiocesan newspaper in response to an inaccurate and mean-spirited editorial published last week.

June 13, 2007

Editor, The Pilot
2121 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02135-3191

To The Editor:

Catholicism has a rich intellectual tradition which encourages the use of our God-given abilities to think critically about the world in which we live and to bring the strength of human reason to bear upon the many challenging and sometimes even divisive issues we face together as a community. More often than not, this means discerning the varying shades of gray in which the truth very commonly resides, avoiding the easy, uncritical tendency simply to embrace the extremes of one position or another.

The Pilot’s editorial of June 8, 2007 entitled, “Marriage is not a civil right” fails to meet even the most basic standards of intellectual inquiry and critical thinking. Perhaps because it’s an “editorial,” The Pilot’s editors felt they could publish something so patently incorrect and lacking the tiniest degree journalistic integrity.

Take the title itself. The statement that marriage is not a “civil right” is false on its face. Is it an “absolute civil right”? Of course not; and no one supporting the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples is asserting that it is or should be. Is marriage a right that has been regulated by societies in different ways throughout time and across political and social boundaries? Every student of history knows that it has been. Countless citations from civil law and other sources could easily demonstrate the blatant error of the editorial’s title and mistaken premise, but let me include just one. The United Nations’ 1948 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” states, “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry [emphasis added] and to found a family” (Art. 16.1). Marriage is clearly an individual right, possessed by individuals, expressed in the lives of individuals.

The editorial goes on to state, “Once marriage becomes a personal right, the institution of marriage fades.” Without spelling out specifically what this “institution of marriage” is, this leads to the tired, ridiculous canard that the recognition of marriage rights for same-sex couples will lead to “polygamy, polyandry, incestuous relationships and all other manner of partnerships.” Are you serious? How many bills are pending before the Massachusetts or other state legislatures to provide marriage rights to grandmothers wishing to marry their grandsons, or to allow for women to have three legal husbands?

The Pilot’s editorial, rooted in ignorance about God’s gay and lesbian children, bases a political call-to-action on fear and hate. I pray that the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention will take no action that perpetuates the myth that gay men and lesbians deserve anything less than full and equal rights as citizens of the Commonwealth, including “the right to marry.”

Timothy J. MacGeorge
Washington, DC

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