Just About Married

The Court

Marc Perlin, 55, is associate dean and professor of law at Suffolk University Law School and an expert on the SJC.

The SJC has been willing to interpret cases in a way that grants more protections than the federal Constitution. If you look at the constitutional language, our state is similar to others, but we’ve seen more liberal interpretations here. In some sense it has to do with our history of liberty.

This ruling is historic for a variety of reasons. Ours is the first state to go this far. The Vermont Supreme Court specifically permitted the legislature to establish a parallel track of civil unions. In their advisory opinion, the SJC specifically rejected any alternatives to full marriage.

I was a little surprised at what happened across the country after the ruling. There’s really no legal connection to the ruling here. It’s much more of a psychological connection. Clearly, this has brought the issue to the forefront.

The Pastor

Ron Crews, 55, is president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which filed a brief against gay marriage with the SJC.

The definition of marriage gets right to the core of what we are going to be as a culture, and gay marriage is a direct affront to that.

I don’t hate anyone. What I am is concerned. I’m concerned about putting into law a behavior that is an unhealthy lifestyle. Our sexual organs, our body orifices, were not designed for homosexual sex, particularly male. There are medical consequences for it.

We were hopeful that the SJC would defer to the legislature. That’s what we asked for in our amicus brief. This court overstepped its bounds. We’re very concerned that a case that has implications for the rest of the country was decided by basically one judge. That’s judicial activism.

Many people of conservative moral values want to be tolerant. But there’s a line and this goes beyond that line.

The State Rep

State Representative Paul Loscocco, 42, offered an amendment that gay-marriage advocates feared had a strong chance of winning both legislative and voter support. It would have banned gay marriage and established civil unions but would have let lawmakers decide what benefits to include. Political maneuverings kept the amendment from going up for vote.

As a practicing Roman Catholic, I view all the gay and lesbian people as my equals. I respect how they are and how God made them. My view on gay marriage is based in the law. I feel passionate about who gets to decide these issues. Is it the legislature and, by extension, the people, or is it the court?

Here we have the most activist court on this issue in the United States, and yet when they ruled, they did not use what is called a strict scrutiny test, which is the highest legal standard that you use in civil rights cases. They used the very lowest legal standard, which is called a rational basis test. I’m presuming they used the lower standard because they didn’t have the votes to decide it the other way. It was the only way they could get the outcome they wanted. In effect they said, “The court is going to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the legislature and the people.” This question deserves to be put to the people. They deserve to have a seat at the table.

I am undecided about whether all the benefits of marriage should be granted to same-sex couples. I am not opposed to that idea. We know right now that civil unions are not recognized by the federal government. So for tax returns, social security, and retirement benefits, they are not going to be recognized at the federal level. All the items not covered at the federal level, the SJC will step in and order that the legislature fund the difference. The state will be forced to pay twice, not only to pay for the benefits at the state level, but to make up for what is not being covered at the federal level. That’s not to say that some benefits should not be given to civil unions, but that it should not be done blindly. The legislature should look at what this is going to cost and decide what we’re going to gain by this. These are difficult issues.

That is not meant to be a slight against people who are gay and lesbian. I know so many committed couples who clearly are taxpayers, who are valuable members of society. I think society is going to want to enact laws that recognize that. To assume that the general population and their elected officials will not enact proper safeguards, to me is offensive. I have more faith in the legislature and in people.

The Senator

State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, 49, gave a speech in support of gay marriage that both defined her career and put her at odds with the Black Ministerial Alliance, a group whose support has been critical to her past success.

I was nervous before I gave my speech. I was shaking. And I don’t usually get nervous. I don’t usually read my speeches from the text, but I thought it would help me maintain my composure. That didn’t work.

It was a blow to me when the black clergy took their position against gay marriage in such a strident manner. They’ve been extremely supportive of me when I’ve needed them most. We’ve had disagreements in the past, but this one was different. I don’t think “disappointed” is the word they used for my position: “We’re praying for your soul, praying you don’t rot in hell.” I really am concerned about what happens next and where we go from here. I would hate to think that all the building of the relationship and working together could be lost over one issue. But we have different roles here. I swore to uphold the Constitution and to represent my constituents, and the only way I know how to do that is to treat them equally.

I don’t believe the level of opposition that we have been hearing from black clergy is–despite the volume–representative of the community. The black constituents I talk to, they are much more tolerant about this: “Let people do what they want. It’s not hurting anybody.”

There are some people who’ve been lost in this idea that it’s a travesty to compare it to slavery or to compare it to a civil right. I’m not suggesting this issue is exactly like slavery, but discrimination–if you look at the definition, it doesn’t say “the inappropriate treatment of blacks by white people.” It says “people who have power using that power to subjugate a group of people to a lesser status.”

By the time I got back to my office after my speech, I had almost a thousand e-mails, and one of them was from Hillary and Julie. They are my constituents. For everybody else, they’re a supreme court case, but they’re my constituents. I could not see a scenario where anything else was the right thing to do. We cannot ever have a situation where a little bit of discrimination is right.