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Nearly 2,000 people convened at three separate marriage rallies held throughout Massachusetts Jan. 25 to send the message to legislators that the people should have the opportunity to vote on an issue of such magnitude. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a marriage protection amendment at a constitutional convention Feb. 11. An affirmative vote at the convention would pave the way for the amendment to appear on the ballot for popular vote in 2006.
The rallies took place in Fall River, Springfield and Worcester. According to the Associated Press, between 400 and 450 attended the rally at Cathedral High School in Springfield, over 300 assembled at Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River, and approximately 1,000 people met at St. Peter Marion High School in Worcester. Same-sex marriage supporters protested outside the rallies.
Two additional rallies are scheduled to take place at the Statehouse on Feb. 8 and Feb. 11.
The Jan. 25 rallies were organized by Mass Voices for Traditional Marriage, a recently formed grassroots organization headed by Laurie Letourneau. According to Letourneau, the rallies were organized to “put pressure” on lawmakers to vote in favor of the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment. She feels that the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) should not have the power to dictate law to the people of Massachusetts.
The rallies featured several speakers and included people of many faiths.
The crowd that gathered in Springfield was welcomed by Rev. Talbert Swan II, pastor of the Solid Rock Church of God in Christ, Springfield.
"Thank you, God, for the purpose for which we have gathered, to speak to the sanctity of an institution that you have established," said Swan, "one that we feel is being threatened."
Bishop Thomas L. Dupre of the Springfield diocese also addressed those at the rally along with Protestant religious leaders from area. Speakers urged those gathered to contact their representatives as soon as possible to show support for traditional marriage. A contact list for Massachusetts lawmakers was made available to rally attendees.
At the Fall River rally, state Rep. Philip Travis, D-Rehoboth, chief sponsor of the proposed marriage amendment, contended that the SJC’s decision not only affects same-sex couples, but has ramifications on the family and society. Travis equated the effects of the marriage decision to the decision in Roe vs. Wade which legalized abortion.
Travis described Feb. 11 as “D-Day” and noted that the vote scheduled for that day is the most important of his 22-year career in the Legislature.
Gerald D’Avolio, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), also spoke at the Fall River rally. He said that Massachusetts residents have a “moral obligation” to actively defend marriage in the political arena. He warned that the SJC’s decision has consequences for the rest of the nation if left unchallenged.
A number of additional speakers addressing attendees included Peg Whitbread, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Ron Crews, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, and William H. Carey, retired Superior Court Justice.
The largest number of traditional marriage proponents attended the rally in Worcester. Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Worcester Bishop Daniel P. Reilly and Don Feder of the radio station WROL were among those who addressed the crowd.
According to Letourneau, who attended the Worcester rally, talks were given on the value of marriage to the individual and the family and why traditional marriage is not a civil rights issue as has been argued.
State Rep. Mark Carron , D-Southbridge, a supporter of the marriage amendment, told the crowd that marriage does not deny same-sex couples their civil rights. They are allowed to vote, to be employed, to obtain public education and to own homes, he said. Carron asked why “a privileged class” is being established in Massachusetts.
Letourneau, who organized the marriage rallies, said that they “are already making a difference” and knows of one legislator who has gone from supporting same-sex marriage to protecting traditional marriage because of the rallies.
"It is having an impact," she said. "I'm getting a lot better response from legislators; so they are listening" to what marriage supporters are doing.
Letourneau is now focusing her efforts on ensuring that there is a large turnout for the Feb. 11 rally at the Statehouse. She said that many lawmakers have told her that they will not decided either way on the issue until that day at the constitutional convention. Therefore, she stated that it is “crucial” that people attend the rally to show their support because she expects an immense turnout from same-sex marriage supporters.
"If we have a poor showing it is going to look terrible," Letourneau stated. "The last thing the legislators are going to see before the constitutional convention is how many people are on each side."
"Some people are saying it's too late -- it's not too late," she continued.
Letourneau’s organization, Mass Voices for Traditional Marriage, is organizing transportation for anyone wanting to attend the Feb. 11 rally. If interested please contact her office at 508-842-0194 or email email@example.com.
"We'll do whatever we need to do to get people there," Letourneau said. "That's how important this is."
Reports from Terence Hegarty of The Catholic Observer of Springfield, Tanya Connor of the Catholic Free Press of Worcester, The Anchor of Fall River and Associated Press contributed to this story.