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Standing by the Catholic Church, as is their tradition, the Knights of Columbus in Massachusetts have mobilized their approximately 46,000 man membership to attend traditional marriage rallies, contact their representatives and make their voices heard in defense of marriage.
Massachusetts state deputy of the Knights of Columbus, Thomas Ledbetter, called his fellow Knights to action “in the fight for marriage” shortly after the Supreme Judicial Court’s Nov. 18 decision to legalize same-sex marriage. He admonished legislators, saying that if they do not defend traditional marriage, they will lose many votes, particularly from the membership of the Knights.
Ledbetter addressed a letter to the state-wide membership of the Catholic fraternal organization last month urging them to do whatever possible to persuade legislators to allow Massachusetts citizens to vote on the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment.
"You have the power and the obligation to force your Legislature, through your political activism, to create a constitutional amendment and join with the 37 other states in establishing that marriage can only be between one man and one woman," Ledbetter wrote.
"I tell you that collectively you can change this decision,” Ledbetter continued in the letter, which was read at individual council meetings. “We need you to help get the message out and to get good Catholic families to stand up for their faith and the future of this country.”
Ledbetter told The Pilot Jan. 26 that he is confident that the efforts of the Knights can persuade legislators to vote in favor of sending a constitutional amendment to the ballot in 2006. The Knights of Columbus are also working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Catholic Conference and the “Coalition for Marriage,” which formed in response to the Goodridge decision.
"I think our local politicians are taking the Church and the power of the Church too lightly," Ledbetter stated. "I think they are going to find out that if they take us too lightly they are going to be very much surprised at the power of the Catholic community, because this time they are really pushing the envelope and they're pushing it too far."
In his letter, he encouraged Knights, their families and friends and Church organizations to which they belong to press legislators to vote in favor of a state amendment on Feb. 11. The Knights were also instructed to request that legislators respond to them in writing to force them to be accountable to supporters of traditional marriage.
"It's the political atmosphere," Ledbetter told The Pilot. "Politicians are ducking rather than coming out and saying this is what it should be ... they're just playing their political games and waiting to see which way the wind is going to blow."
According to Ledbetter, a number of Knights were in attendance at each of the three marriage rallies which took place in Fall River, Worcester and Springfield during the weekend of Jan. 25. He said that Knights will also attend two upcoming rallies in the Boston area. The first will be held on Feb. 8 in front of the Statehouse, sponsored by Your Catholic Voice and featuring the organization’s president and former ambassador to the Vatican, Raymond Flynn. The other will also be held on the steps of the Statehouse on Feb. 11, the day legislators are scheduled to vote on the proposed marriage amendment.
Ledbetter is currently drafting letters to Gov. Mitt Romney and the leadership of the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives to remind them that the Knights are a large and influential group in Massachusetts. The voters, and not the SJC, must decide how marriage should be defined in Massachusetts, Ledbetter said.
"You would never think that a court would be involved in marriage or trying to define marriage," he said. "This is something that the people should be deciding, and not four justices. What they are doing is basically dictating their values to a whole state, which is totally ludicrous."
"Everybody has to be involved in this -- it's the sanctity of marriage and what it represents," Ledbetter continued. "It seems so crazy that you have to now define it."
The full text of Ledbetter’s letter to the Knights of Columbus of Massachusetts is reprinted on page 17 of this issue.