May 14, 2004 Friday
Massachusetts Expects Same Sex Weddings
GUESTS: Mitt Romney
BYLINE: Tony Snow
SNOW: In the "impact" segment tonight, next week the commonwealth of Massachusetts-in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, authorities expect hundreds of same sex couples to get hitched. But unlike the recent spate of weddings in San Francisco and elsewhere, these marriages will be legal.
Last November, state Supreme Court ruling that gay couples can marry goes into effect Monday, but certain cities are promising to issue licenses to out of state couples, in violation of Massachusetts state law.
Joining us now from Boston, Mitt Romney, Republican governor of Massachusetts.
Governor, you're the one who dusted off a 1913 law that said that marriages that are illegal out of state cannot be performed within the state. Now there are going to be acts of civil disobedience. In some places, they're going to go ahead and marry out of state couples. What are you going to do about it?
MITT ROMNEY ®, MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Well, I don't think you're going to see very much of that, frankly. We've met with the town clerks and city officials. We have 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. And all but perhaps two or three intend to follow exactly the law as it was written. And those two or three will probably take symbolic steps to try and voice their displeasure with the law.
But of course, the right way to express one's view with regards to a law you don't like is to institute a new one or to go to the court and ask for the law to be made unconstitutional.
So we intend to follow the law. And if people indicate that they're not going to follow it, we'll take steps to discipline them, but also to assure that any marriages performed that were not legal will not be registered in our state books. And we'll also notify the couple that their marriage is null and void.
That's in effect what our law says, or quite precisely, that a law which is entered into - or excuse me, a marriage that is entered into by people coming from other states that don't live here, don't intend to live here, is null and void. And that's the way it'll be.
SNOW: Governor, one of the key areas of this whole situation, you've got a state constitutional amendment. It's not going to go into effect until-for a couple of years. So you've got this window right now where gay marriages will be legal, or same-sex marriages will be legal. Then there's the possibility that after that they won't be legal, correct?
ROMNEY: Yes. It's a strange setting. It really doesn't make any sense at all. The legislature worked long and hard to craft an amendment that could be passed which says that marriage is an institution between one man and one woman. The legislature voted for that. And that's something I certainly support.
But then the Supreme Court has this decision in its way that says we're going to start marrying anyway until this amendment is passed. I've asked the legislature for the right to go to the supreme court and ask for their decision to be held until citizens have a right to vote on this particular amendment.
But the legislature won't give me that power, won't let me approach the supreme court. And of course, it makes you wonder where the legislature was just putting up a facade, a ruse, to indicate their willingness to support this amendment, but recognizing that we're going to have gay marriage anyway.
SNOW: Governor, Massachusetts is known as a liberal state. What's the public opinion on gay marriage within the state right now?
ROMNEY: Well, the major news periodicals here show about a 50/50 split. Maybe slightly more favoring retaining the traditional institution of marriage, rather than going to same-sex marriage.
My own view is that a decision of this magnitude that so fundamentally affects the creation of the next generation in our society is a decision which should be made by the citizens. It should not be made by a one-court-by one court or by a one vote majority of that court.
And for that reason, I've insisted that we don't have same-sex marriage until the people have a chance to vote. But the legislature and the court see it a different way. And so I have to battle it my own way.
SNOW: So what do you do next? You say you want to battle it in your own way.
ROMNEY: Well, we don't have any choice with regards to the beginnings of gay marriage. We're going to have gay marriage here in Massachusetts starting this coming Monday. But we can follow the law, which says that people that come here from other states aren't allowed to marry under our state law. And by virtue of that, we'll maintain gay marriage here, but we won't be exporting it to the entire country. There's no reason why we should become the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage for the rest of the country. And that's something which I hope we'll be able to contain.
SNOW: Governor Romney, this case strikes people around the country, and it certainly strikes me, as a case of a judicial court completely taking matters into its own hands, being contemptuous of public opinion, saying that the legislature doesn't have any role. Do you see any backlash at all now or in the future toward the Massachusetts supreme judicial court?
ROMNEY: Well, I think you're absolutely right, that the courts have long turned to the constitution as the basis of their judgments and interpretations. But in this case, to look at our state constitution and say that in it is the right for same sex individuals to marry is an extraordinary stretch.
And I think it's a mistake on the part of this court. I think other courts around the nation will be interested in doing the same thing. And I think it's essential that we proceed with a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, and that we do not impose the view of a one justice majority on the people of America.
SNOW: But governor, what you've got right now-so you're worried that this court case, even though you say that out of state couples cannot legally be married in Massachusetts, it sounds as if you believe that what happens next Monday is going to mean sooner or later same-sex marriage is going to have to be acknowledged in all 50 states?
ROMNEY: Well, I think what you're going to see happen is that there will be a couple that's from Massachusetts married here. They'll then move to another state. They'll be told in that state that they're not going to be treated as a married couple. They'll take that to the federal court, ultimately to the supreme court. And who knows what the supreme court will do?
But if it follows the same kind of expansionist logic that the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts has followed, we could see a same- sex marriage being imposed on the people of America without their having a say.
I think that's wrong. I think the people of America and the people of each state should have the right to make their own decision.
SNOW: You mentioned that the legislature is not giving you the opportunity to go before your state supreme court. The legislature wrangled long and hard about what to do about gay marriage or even traditional marriage. Is the legislature chickening out?
ROMNEY: Well, I think the legislature would like to be on both sides of this issue. And that's something which is pretty popular for Massachusetts politicians now and then. And that is that they want to fight in favor of an amendment which defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. But they're willing to let the decision of the supreme court to start gay marriage this coming Monday go into effect for the next 2.5 years before the citizens get a chance to actually implement their amendment.
SNOW: All right.
ROMNEY: And so they're having it both ways. We're going to have gay marriage here. And I think a number of the legislators realize that having had gay marriage for 2.5 years, it'll be very difficult for the citizens to vote it out of existence.
SNOW: OK, Governor Romney, thanks.
ROMNEY: And (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
SNOW: Got to go, Governor Romney.
Up next, supersizing. We'll talk about that with you.
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