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"Altared" state: in a March 15 election, most Massachusetts statehouse candidates are pro-marriage.

There may have been a national backlash against the Massachusetts supreme judicial court's ruling for equal marriage rights, but in the Bay State candidates are finding the opposite. The state is holding a special primary election on March 15, and most of the candidates support stone-sex marriage--and don't support a state constitutional ban on such unions.

It's a stark reversal. The politicians who vacated the three house seats now up for grabs were no friends to Massachusetts's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender residents.

In 2004 representatives Peter Larkin and Tom Finneran joined 103 of their fellow lawmakers to vote for a state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage but allow civil unions. The third lawmaker, Brian Golden, voted against the amendment only because he didn't believe gay couples should even have civil unions. The incoming legislature will have a chance to vote a second time on the amendment.

If it passes this time, the measure would go before voters in November 2006. Gay rights advocates, however, believe that if marriage supporters win these three seats, there would be a better chance of killing the amendment.

"Having had marriage for several months now, elected officials see they are not being punished for their support," says Carissa Cunningham, spokeswoman for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the legal group that argued the marriage sights case.

One reason candidates favor marriage rights is that they genuinely believe in civil equality and feel they now have the political cover they need to vote their convictions. The other reason is that gays have organized vocal support and money for their allies.

"We have become a powerful alliance throughout the state," says Marty Rouse, campaign director for MassEquality, a coalition dedicated to upholding the supreme judicial court's decision on marriage. "It gives candidates who do want to support us some comfort knowing that we're out there. It gives the ones against us some fear."

Gay support could make a real difference if voter turnout is low, which it traditionally is for special elections.

That could explain why all the candidates in a tight five-person race for state representative from the 12th Suffolk district showed up to ask for support from DotOUT, a recently formed gay political group in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. At the January meeting two candidates admitted they didn't support marriage rights but were against discrimination and wanted the group's endorsement anyway. "We were pleasantly surprised that all the candidates showed up," says Daniel Cushing, DotOUT's cofounder. "We think this shows that gays and lesbians really do have a seat at the table, our numbers are there, and our support is wanted."

The group threw its support behind Linda Dorcena Forry, who works in Boston's Department of Neighborhood Development. In her candidate statement, she says she is an "unequivocal supporter of gay marriage."

Candidate Stacey Monahan--district director for U.S. congressman Stephen Lynch--says she feels "strongly that people should be able to build a life with whomever they love." While failing to win DotOUT's endorsement, she says she hopes to win support front other gay rights groups.

In the close race for the 18th Suffolk district representative seat, there is a good chance its winning candidate will back marriage fights. All but one of the hopefuls, Greg Glennon, say they are in favor of marriage. And one candidate, Tim Schofield, is openly gay. While some pundits think Glennon has a shot, gay activists say they will work to defeat hint. "We're quickly mobilizing our volunteers to support the candidates that support us," Rouse says.

In candidate Rhonda Serre's race for the third Berkshire district seat, representing Pittsfield, every candidate has expressed support for marriage equality, even though it hasn't been a hot topic on the campaign trail. Says Serre: "I really don't see why anyone would be upset over my support for gay rights or for any candidate's support in this election."

Christensen is an investigative producer for CNN.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Politics
Author:Christensen, Jen
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Mar 15, 2005
Words:657
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