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Gay Marriage Struck Down in California

Proposition 8 is passed which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Gay Bostonians react.

By Ryan McLendon

BOSTON- In the bustling and brightly-lit cafeteria at Brigham and Women’s Hospital—a short train ride from downtown Boston– Dr. Andrew Singer deftly steals a forkful of spinach from the plate of the person sitting next to him, Corey Morris, a PhD student. But Morris doesn’t seem to mind sharing his dinner with Singer; the two will soon be sharing their lives.

Singer and Morris are one of the many gay couples in Massachusetts currently planning their wedding, a luxury afforded to them in 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriage.

But many gay couples and gay advocates in California yesterday lost those same rights—granted to them this summer by the California Supreme Court. A state-wide measure to define marriage as a union between a man and a women, or Proposition 8, passed.

Late Wednesday evening after nearly a day of uncertainly, the measure passed 52% to 48%, resulting in non-violent, wide-spread protests throughout the state.

Singer predicted Proposition 8 would fail days before the voters went to the polls. “I think we’re going to lose in California, and losing in California is going to embolden the opposition,” said Singer.

Morris and Singer faced this same possibility in Massachusetts and remember being fearful they wouldn’t be able to get legally married.

“We knew that if was going to voted on, marriage would most likely disappear in Massachusetts,” Singer said. “Our side never does well when gay marriage goes to a referendum. We always lose.”

By 2006, voters in 30 states—throughout several elections– decided if their state Constitutions would define marriage as between one man and one woman. Of the 30 states that voted, only Arizona rejected the measure. A similar ban passed last night in that state Tuesday as well as a ban in Florida.

Some organizations in California are concerned that the vote on Proposition 8 could be a sea of change on how gay marriage is viewed—or whether of not it is adopted– by other states.

Meg Waters, spokesperson for the “Yes on 8” campaign, did not speculate on whether Proposition 8 could effect other states, saying that the amendment deals with California alone.

“I don’t really have a handle on what politically is possible,” Waters said.

But organizations in other states closely watched California’s potentially influential decision, such as Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD,) a New England-based advocacy group for gay rights.

Carissa Cunningham, a spokesperson for GLAD, said same-sex marriage rights for Massachusetts couples aren’t at risk, because the issue had been decided by the state legislature and will not go to a ballot.

“The question is pretty much settled here in Massachusetts,” she said.

But Cunningham acknowledges that Proposition 8 could be an indirect setback to the marriage equality movement in Connecticut and future states that legalize same-sex marriage in the future.

It’s possible that a Constitutional Convention could occur in Connecticut and the gay marriage decision could be overturned.

But some groups are more optimistic than others about the future of same-sex marriage. At an election night gathering at Club Café, a bar and grille in South Boston, members of Mass Equality, a non-profit advocate for gay rights, feverishly watched the election results hoping for the best.

“The difference between what’s happening right now in California and what happened in Massachusetts is that we were able to block it before it even got to a referendum,” said Matt O’Malley, Political Director for Mass Equality. “We’ve proven that [gay marriage] is a good thing, it’s the right thing and it’s incumbent upon mass equality to get that message to other states that may be dealing [with similar issues].

But the passing of Proposition 8 means very little to Singer and Morris. They can still have the wedding of their dreams with over 150 of their closest friends and family.

“We can have the wedding we wanted to have as opposed to a very quick, rushed [ceremony,]” Morris said.

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