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National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Hails Defeat of Proposed State Constitutional Amendment To Ban Same-sex Marriage in Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 14, 2007
6:00 PM

CONTACT: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications media@theTaskForce.org 646.358.1465

 
Task Force Hails Defeat of Proposed State Constitutional Amendment To Ban Same-sex Marriage in Massachusetts
 

BOSTON - JUNE 14 - Todays vote averts a divisive, defamatory and hugely expensive campaign that our national community would have had to wage between now and 2008 to preserve the freedom to marry in the one state where we have it.” — Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

By a 151-to-45 vote, the Massachusetts Legislature today defeated a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc., invested significant staff and other resources (totaling $460,000) to protect marriage equality in Massachusetts. Moreover, the Task Force played an essential role in today’s victory: Task Force organizers led the effort that convinced two conservative legislators — Sen. Gale Candaras and Rep. Angelo Puppolo — to listen to their constituents and switch their votes to support equality. Candaras has repeatedly voted against marriage equality, while legislative newcomer Puppolo initially ran a pro-amendment campaign. These switches provided two of the eight votes needed to win the margin of victory.

Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“Today’s vote averts a divisive, defamatory and hugely expensive campaign that our national community would have had to wage between now and 2008 to preserve the freedom to marry in the one state where we have it. The repercussions — in terms of saved energy and millions of dollars that can now be devoted to other pressing priorities — cannot be overstated.

“I am extremely proud that the hardcore grassroots work of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force organizers delivered two of the critical eight votes needed to win today. Once again, our organizers — this time Becca Ahuja, Jason Cooper and Zaheer Mustafa — were asked to do the seemingly impossible in Massachusetts and we delivered.  

“We salute the leadership of MassEquality, especially Marc Solomon and his predecessor Marty Rouse. For three and a half years, our friends and colleagues in the Bay State mounted the country’s most extensive and hard-driving field campaign to win a decisive victory and to drive a stake through the heart of a mean-spirited and cruel proposed amendment to the world’s oldest constitution. We are proud to be their partners in this historic fight and share their inexpressible relief and joy.”

Background
Today’s victory preserves the 2003 landmark Supreme Judicial Court decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which concluded that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry violated the Massachusetts Constitution. To date, approximately 9,000 same-sex couples have been married in the state. Opponents of marriage equality have repeatedly attempted to amend the state constitution to specifically ban same-sex marriage. In January 2007, they made headway at the constitutional convention, where state lawmakers approved the measure that subsequently fell to defeat today. (Citizen-initiated proposals to amend the state constitution require approval of just 25 percent of the legislators, or 50 votes, in two consecutive constitutional conventions in order to proceed to the ballot.)

Since the January 2007 vote, the Task Force has been working with MassEquality to get legislators to change their minds and vote against the amendment. Eight votes were needed to prevail and the Task Force was assigned to work on four of them, all representing western Massachusetts. The Task Force demonstrated its skills at convincing legislators to move when, in 2006, the sponsor of the amendment and minority leader of the state Senate, Brian Lees, withdrew his support of the measure and voted against it. This dramatic about-face was the result of Lees hearing from more than 7,000 pro-marriage equality constituents in his district, a direct result of Task Force organizing.

Background on Task Force involvement in Massachusetts
Since same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts, the Task Force Foundation and NGLTF, Inc., have invested $460,000 in the effort and successfully worked with MassEquality to educate voters about the importance of marriage equality and keep an anti-same-sex marriage measure off the ballot. Task Force work included:

  • Making direct cash grants to MassEquality.
  • Organizing and staffing a program to identify pro-equality voters in the Boston area, which involved nearly 3,000 volunteers. The program was funded by a $100,000 gift from Massachusetts residents Tom Bombardier and John Fowler.
  • Organizing and staffing in conjunction with MassEquality a door-to-door and phone-banking operations to bring constituent pressure to bear on state legislators in western Massachusetts.
  • Assigning staff to lobby the state Legislature.
  • Issuing a groundbreaking analysis of the economic disparities faced by Massachusetts same-sex couples if denied equal marriage rights.
  • Organizing a Boston-based Power Summit that trained 100 activists to talk to voters about marriage equality.
  • Bringing the National Religious Leadership Roundtable to Boston to lobby legislators during the first constitutional convention.
  • Being the lead organizer in a dozen major door-to-door voter canvasses and in filling hundreds of phone-banking shifts.
  • Task Force staffer Sue Hyde maintains the organization’s office in Cambridge, Mass. She is a founder of MassEquality, launched formally as a campaign committee in 2001; a founding board member of MassEquality.org, first seated in January 2005; and board president of the MassEquality Education Fund. She has contributed hundreds of hours annually to the effort to achieve marriage equality in Massachusetts.

Since January 2007, the Task Force has worked to persuade four legislators in western Massachusetts to change their votes on the anti-marriage amendment and succeeded in getting two to do so. This was accomplished by securing support from more than 100 influential community allies, who in turn urged their lawmakers to reject the discriminatory measure, and through letter-writing and in-district lobbying campaigns.

In addition, more than 2,000 postcards stating support for same-sex marriages were signed through actions organized by the Task Force at supermarkets, public events and other locales; 600-plus calls were made to the targeted legislators to appeal for marriage equality; the Task Force helped arrange more than 150 conversations with Democratic Party leaders about holding their fellow Democrats accountable to the party’s platform on this issue; 103 community leaders and clergy signed a statement of support that was published in the Springfield Republican; and more than 200 volunteer shifts were staffed through outreach by Task Force staff.

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.

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