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Frank sees referendum for ruling on gay marriage

WASHINGTON -- No matter what the Massachusetts Legislature does with the Supreme Judicial Court's instruction that it establish a gay marriage law in the next six months, the issue will probably be settled by the electorate in a state referendum, Representative Barney Frank said yesterday.

Appearing on the ABC program "This Week," Frank, who is gay, also argued that the state ought to be allowed to conduct its experiment without outside interference before 2006, the earliest a proposal to amend the state constitution could reach the ballot.

"My guess is, by the way, once people have seen this in effect for two years, and they've seen that all the horrors that have been predicted did not come to pass, they will be not upset about it," said Frank, Democrat of Newton.

Appearing on the same program, Representative Marilyn Musgrave, Republican of Colorado, argued that even two years of judicially ordered experimentation will be an affront to the principle that elected legislators, rather than judges, should decide matters of social policy.

"If we're going to redefine marriage, let's let the American people, through their elected representatives, decide -- not activist judges," she said. "Let the people of Massachusetts decide."

Musgrave proposed an amendment to the US Constitution in May that would define federal marriage as a union only between a man and a woman.

Support for the Federal Marriage Amendment has, so far, fallen short of the two-thirds of the House of Representatives required to pass it out of that body.

Frank and another guest, the gay conservative Andrew Sullivan, sparred with Musgrave over whether her proposal's text would also overrule a decision by individual states to allow gay marriages or even civil unions, as Vermont established three years ago.

The fourth guest, conservative commentator George Will, said he opposed Musgrave's proposed amendment because states should be laboratories for trying new approaches. He said that the next two years would provide some empirical evidence to support or rebut contentions such as whether gay marriage would undermine heterosexual marriage or lead to greater monogamy among homosexuals.

Frank said that only those gays who were already inclined to monogamy would choose to get married and that gay marriage would have no impact on heterosexual marriage, citing the lack of chaos in Vermont after three years of allowing gay civil unions.

Rather, he said, the reason to oppose the amendment was because anyone who lived and paid taxes in Massachusetts should have the right to "be a whole person" and choose whether to get married.

Charlie Savage may be reached at

Ross Ozer and his partner, Scott Gortikov Ross Ozer (left) and his partner, Scott Gortikov, took their 18-month-old son, Sam Ozer-Gortikov, to a celebration of the court ruling at the Old South Meeting House. Gortikov proposed marriage to Ozer after hearing of the decision. (Globe Staff Photo / Matthew J. Lee)
Text of the decision
Gay population
The 2000 Census estimated there were about 19,000 gay couples in Mass., and about 659,000 nationwide, or less than 1 percent of households. Provincetown is the community in Mass. with the highest rate of gay partners, about 15 percent of households.
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