Catholics Boost Historic Campaign for Massachusetts Marriage Petition December 23, 2005
No other petition effort in the 200-year history of the Commonwealth netted more certified signatures than the Voteonmarriage.org campaign conducted this fall to put marriage on the 2008 ballot in Massachusetts. In an incredible display of active citizenship, volunteers all across the state gathered a raw total of over 170,000 signatures in just six weeks. Petitions came pouring in, filling enough boxes to form a paper tower twenty-one feet high when delivered to the Secretary of State's Office this month. The Secretary of State certified a record total of 123,356 signatures, passing the mark set in 1985, when a petition to remove a surtax on the personal income tax garnered 110,000 signatures.
Although the mobilization on behalf of reaffirming marriage as the union between one man and one woman employed a broad range of groups and individuals, Catholics played a vital role in making history.
A phenomenal outpouring of support came from Catholic parishes, thanks to the leadership of the Bishops, the cooperation of pastors and parish councils, and the organizational efforts of Catholic Citizenship, the lay movement of active Catholics headed by former Boston Mayor and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn, along with the Knights of Columbus.
Catholic Citizenship, led by its Executive Director Larry Cirignano, served as a clearinghouse for the many volunteers, including MCC-Net and Knights of Columbus members, who collected signatures at weekend Masses, KofC councils, and the malls, drove back and forth to various town halls with original petitions, and delivered completed stacks to Voteonmarriage.org. The diocesan newspapers assisted by including single petitions in one of their editions, prompting many readers to fill one out and mail it in.
According to Cirignano, at least 70,000 signatures were collected from the parishes, with 42,000 in the Boston Archdiocese alone.
The battle moves to a new phase next year. The initiative to amend the state constitution, which reads "When recognizing marriages entered into after the adoption of this amendment by the people, the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall define marriage only as the union between one man and one woman," will be introduced into the state legislature. A hearing at the committee level will take place early in the year, and a joint session of the Senate and House is scheduled for May 10. The legislature must finish up its business by July. At least 50 legislators out of a total of 200 must be persuaded to vote in the petition's favor.
The next step is to organize in the legislative districts. Unless constituents are activated by grassroots organizing, bringing their support to the doorsteps of the State House, this fall's historic effort will be forgotten. We can't rely on the Boston Globe or any other outlet to make our case--we have to do it ourselves--and the message must be loud and clear: "Let the people vote!"
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