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The debate on gay marriage, pro and con

Voices from yesterday's debate on gay marriage:

Representative John Rogers, Democrat of Norwood:

"The only way to change the Constitution in Massachusetts is through the people. . . . Is it possible here in Massachusetts to build new foundations and new institutions for other families heretofore forgotten, without tearing down or altering time-honored institutions such as marriage? I thought then, as I think today, that the answer to this question is in the affirmative. It's possible. . . . "Out of the many differences in the human family, there can be one family; there can be one equality. . . . So I disagree respectfully that this is about separate but equal. I think it comes down to different but equal."

Representative Viriato Manuel deMacedo, Republican of Plymouth:

"This is truly a solemn occasion that we all come here, dealing with probably the most important issue we will ever deal with in our lifetimes. . . . It will affect religious liberties. It will have an impact. . . . Don't allow this to happen. It seems like a compromise, but there are other things we can do. This isn't the end of the road. We need to put something on the ballot that is fair. This compromise serves no one. Who wants this? The phone calls, letters, e-mails, thousands I've received, have said don't write discrimination into the Constitution."

Representative Philip Travis, Democrat of Rehoboth: "That secret ingredient in the smelting of life is marriage. It cannot be changed. . . . Some of you will vote for this amendment who are dead set against it, for the sake of passing it and defeating it at the next reading. That may be a great political ploy to move it along, but you will be exposing something in you, something I don't think you want to see. I want you to be truthful. . . . It has to go on the ballot. The people of Massachusetts have demanded it go on the ballot. . . . We all know in our heart of hearts that marriage is unique, but by calling two different things marriage, it is not unique."

Senator Robert O'Leary, Democrat of Barnstable:

"Today we are about the business of imposing a double standard on another community. Those who fail to study their history are condemned to repeat it. . . . I call upon all of us here today to restrict any amendment that will restrict anyone's rights."

Representative Paul J.P. Loscocco, Republican of Holliston:

"Why are we here today? In large part because this legislative body thwarted the referendum project two years ago. We refused to act; we dodged the question. If we're here to honor the referendum process, who are we kidding? Why would we want to amend our Constitution in such a way? . . . "We need to consider this carefully, that this is an ill-conceived attempt to split the difference and make no one happy. . . . I remind you all of another constitutional convention in 1789, where many members were told `let's compromise' . . . [a] three-fifths compromise.

So what if some group of people are considered to be less than others? Much to our shame, it's the one black spot on our Constitution, and it had to be changed. If we feel that it should be marriage for everyone, let's do that."

Senator Therese Murray, Democrat of Plymouth: "Listen to your own brain, as well as your heart. Know there are families out there who don't look like you, who don't act like you, but since 1996 in this commonwealth, we have allowed gays and lesbians to adopt children. Forty percent of children adopted have gone to gay and lesbian families."

Representative Joyce A. Spiliotis, Democrat of Peabody:

"We wrote into our laws that no one in this Commonwealth can discriminate against a gay and lesbian person. This body has not always been lethargic on this issue, but has led. It was a lot more difficult to vote on anti-discrimination [laws] in the 1980s. . . . Those that preceded us had no support. Where would we be today if that legislative body didn't have the courage in the '80s to say no to discrimination? I say to you, how can you come here and say that I am going to give you rights, but not have the right to have the same title?

"Many years ago we separated and segregated people through violence and shackles. We do it today by names and titles."

Senator Jo Ann Sprague, Republican of Walpole:"Why do we feel threatened and compelled to act in such a way? Some things cause both my constituents and me to feel really threatened. We feel threatened by an economy that hasn't produced any new jobs in the last four years. . . . I know some of our soldiers feel threatened because there aren't enough rooms promised at soldiers homes for their long-term care. These threats are real. . . . But Mr. President, we're not debating that today. What threat is so intimidating that we must use our Constitution to form a wall against this threat? Surely that threat doesn't come from the family next door. That threat doesn't come from the person standing bravely next to us in military service or from the families who pay the same tax rates we do. Even though those family portraits may not look quite the same as some as ours do . . . I urge my colleagues to vote no to amending our constitution with language that does not respect the intent of our original founders."

Representative Robert S. Hargraves, Republican of Groton: "This language is not substantially different than an amendment voted down last month. I opposed it then, and I continue to oppose it, for essentially the same reasons. Instead of winning broad support as a reasonable compromise, it will draw [opposition] from two different camps operating under the theory that half a loaf is worse than none. The people's voice should be heard on this matter. The proposal should be clear cut."

Representative Shirley Owens-Hicks, Democrat of Boston:

"I'm the only African-Amerian legislator in this Commonwealth whose articulated position is that the definition of marriage should be maintained as a union between a man and a woman. I take this position with no malice, no meanness of spirit, and certainly no wish to deny anyone civil rights. I take this position with a small wish that my position could be different.

If I were to endorse same-sex marriage, then I might not be regarded as standing in opposition to the civil rights of gay and lesbian individuals. I don't like that perception; it doesn't fit me. The people to whom we refer in our debates are my dearest friends, some of them are my relatives. . . . I have heretofore supported every single piece of legislation having to do with gay rights. . . . I am in support of civil unions in order to provide same-sex couples with benefits. But I believe that the existing definition of marriage should be maintained as a union between a man and a women.

"There has been much discussion of the civil rights movement and passionate assertions that the civil rights movement has connections to the issue we are debating today. . . . If gays and lesbians were ever forced to stand at the back of the bus, I would certainly stand up for their civil rights. I'm talking about experiences I have had. If gays and lesbians had to drink at a separate water fountain, if gays and lesbians were forced into underfunded segregated schools, I would stand up for their rights.

If at those schools gays and lesbians had to pay for their books, secondhand from the other schools, then, of course, I would stand up. If gays and lesbians had to uproot themselves from family and flee for their lives in the middle of the night for no other reason than they stood up for themselves, if they were victims of false arrest, if gays and lesbians were denied the right to vote, I would certainly stand up.

If gays and lesbians were jailed, beaten, or even killed because they even dared try to register to vote. I'm not wishing any of these atrocities on my gay and lesbian friends, but I don't see the connectedness.

"My father was a Baptist minister, known throughout Alabama. Rooted and grounded in my faith. My faith, Mr. President, which is the genesis of my conviction that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman.

We implement our faith in our own unique ways. Some may suggest that faith has no place in the State House, well, my faith is what got me in this door. And I'm not going to abandon it because I'm here."

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