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ABC: Good Morning America

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ABC News Transcripts November 19, 2003 Wednesday

SHOW: GOOD MORNING AMERICA (07:00 AM ET) - ABC

November 19, 2003 Wednesday

LENGTH: 1424 words

HEADLINE: LANDMARK DECISION GAY MARRIAGE IN MASSACHUSETTS

BODY:
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS

All right. Thanks, Tony.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) Now we're gonna turn to that decision yesterday on gay marriage. Massachusetts' highest court ruling in favor of seven gay couples declaring that same-sex partners have the legal right to marry.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Voice Over) Joining us this morning from Watertown, Massachusetts is the attorney that won this case, Mary Bonauto from the advocacy group GLAD.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) And a little later we will be joined by the governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. But Mary, let me start with you. So often the term landmark is thrown around when a court makes a decision. You feel this is a landmark decision.

graphics: gay marriage in massachusetts

MARY BONAUTO,

WON MASSACHUSETTS GAY RIGHTS LAWSUIT

I do. Because it's the first time that a state supreme court has said it's time for the government to treat committed and loving couples equally and fairly under the law. And that's across the board with all of the protections associated with marriage, whether it's patient protections or hospital visitations or even the right to inherit, a partner's automatic right to inherit. And this is gonna make a huge difference in people's lives and in their security and the protection of their family and of their children.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) And I heard you equated yesterday to a 1948 decision in California.

MARY BONAUTO

I did. I, I think this is very much like that 1948 decision in California where California became the first state supreme court ever to strike down a ban on interracial marriage. And at that point there were 30 states that forbade interracial marriage. Nine out of 10 Americans supported those bans. Every court that had ever considered the issue had thought those bans were perfectly lawful. And in 1948, the California Supreme Court saw through it all, saw through the reflexive discrimination and said this is an issue about human equality and human dignity. And that decision was cited in part as the basis for the ruling by the state supreme court judicial court yesterday. They said it's time to end this basic discrimination with respect to a basic civil right. That government needs to treat people equally and fairly.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) Ms. Bonauto, why is the word marriage so important in this? And why does that make it a landmark? Vermont just to the north accepts a civil union. And in a civil union, there are equal financial and legal rights for partners of the same sex. And you can craft laws that give partners of the same sex civil unions and give them equal rights. So why is the word marriage so important in all of this?

MARY BONAUTO

Well, the word "marriage" itself is actually an enormous protection because everyone understands that it means you have an automatic right to be by your partner's side no matter what the circumstances. And as much as I think the Vermont law was a very important step forward, in fact, it is not as much protection as marriage. There's no substitute for marriage. I have yet to find anyone who would be willing to trade in their marriage license for a civil union certificate or any of the other benefits people have offered.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) But, but, but is it in some way not just protection but also validation that is important to you?

MARY BONAUTO

Well, certainly there is a way in which excluding gay people from the most enormous legal institution that exists for families as way of saying that they're not really families. They're not really equal citizens and certainly the court yesterday saw it that way as well. And said excluding people, you know, basic citizens, people who are little league coaches and literacy volunteers and working in every community and raising kids, excluding them from this government institution of legal governmental marriage is a real scar on them. And it's a scar on their citizenship and it's, it needs to end. We need to say that gay and lesbian people are part of the community and need to be treated equally under the law.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) Mary Bonauto, appreciate your being with us. Thanks ...

MARY BONAUTO

Thank you.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) very much. I appreciate your being here. Let's turn to the governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, who is joining us this morning also. Governor, a lot of statements yesterday objecting to the decision of the highest court in your state. But what practically can do you be in opposition?

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY,

REPUBLICAN, MASSACHUSETTS

Well, we have two tracks that we pursue. Under the court's decision we have 180 days to put in place a civil union type law if we'd like to. And then run that by the court. At the same time, we can begin a process, which we will begin, to put in place a constitutional amendment which will overturn the opinion of the 4-member majority of the, of the Supreme Court.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) But the court was not interpreting statute here. It was interpreting the constitution. So presumably that would trump any law that the legislature would pass immediately. And a constitutional amendment can't be put in forth, put forth before the public for a couple of years, can it?

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY

Well, actually, the statute would conform with the court's decision. They're giving the legislature 180 days to put in place a statute which, which would carry out the intent of the court's decision. They have stayed their decision for 180 days. You are right that a constitutional amendment would take a couple of years. But that's a, that's a course which we're gonna pursue.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) Now, I was talking to Mary Bonauto about the word marriage and why that's so important. Do you, would you support a law that would grant civil unions and give same-sex couples equal legal and financial rights?

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY

You know, I think those of us who believe that marriage is an institution that is special, that should be reserved for a male and a female recognize that whether you call it marriage or civil union, if it is in all ways identical, it's still marriage. And so we'd look to provide basic civil rights to non-traditional couples as well as certain appropriate benefits. But we're not looking to have marriage or something which is the equivalent of marriage applied to people who are not part of a traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) We now have people calling for constitutional amendments. We have a law, national law, on the books that, that talks about protecting marriage between man and woman. Do we just have a very muddled legal situation at this point?

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY

Well, I think it's gonna take a while for the courts to sort this out. But fundamentally, the decision's gonna have to be made at the Federal level. Because most of the benefits which gay couples are looking for are Federal benefits, taxation, and inheritance. These aren't decided by state courts. They're decided instead at the Federal level. And there's gonna have to be Federal, either legislation or potentially an amendment at some point depending on what the United States Supreme Court does.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) But do you accept the fact that in 180 days Justices of the Peace and whatever are gonna have to start marrying couples in the state of Massachusetts?

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY

Well, within 180 days, the legislature will have to pass some kind of legislation which is civil union in nature. And if they fail do so, then presumably marriages would have to be offered to gay couples in, in that sense. I think it's more likely that we'll have a separate piece of legislation which will have a civil union-type provision and then we'll also have a constitutional amendment which will go along with the minority opinion and conform 3,000 years of human history saying that marriage is between a man and a woman.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) Very interesting situation in the state of Massachusetts. Mary Bonauto, thank you. And Governor Romney, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY

Thank you.

CHARLES GIBSON

(Off Camera) When we come back, so much pomp, pageantry, and royal etiquette as they prepare for President Bush's state dinner with her majesty, the Queen. We'll have a preview in just a moment.

graphics: abc good morning america

graphics: wednesday, november 19

commercial break

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH

Copyright 2003 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
ABC News Transcripts

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