MBA President Carol A.G. DiMento appeared before the state legislature's Public Service Committee on Beacon Hill on April 10 to voice the association’s opposition to House Bill No. 4840.
The bill is an initiative amendment to the state constitution “relative to the protection of marriage.” If approved by the Legislature and voters, it would add a provision to the constitution that only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Massachusetts. It would prohibit any other relationship from either: (1) receiving the benefits or incidents exclusive to marriage from the state, cities and towns; or (2) being recognized as a marriage or its legal equivalent. The proposed amendment also would declare the state’s public policy to be that marriage is a unique relationship and is to be protected in order to promote the stability and welfare of society and the best interests of children.
The MBA has opposed such legislation on three previous occasions, most recently in a unanimous vote at the House of Delegates meeting on April 3. In each instance, the MBA has objected such “protection of marriage” legislation on four grounds, because: (1) it is unconstitutional as it violates the rights of equal protection under the law, the full-faith-and-credit clause of the US Constitution, and the constitutional right of interstate travel; (2) civil marriage is a fundamental right; (3) it does nothing to help families; (4) similar laws in other states have been used to inflict harm.
In her remarks, DiMento noted the MBA's constitutional objections and added that such an amendment “is likely to cause harm by denying families of unmarried or same-sex couples their government-granted benefits for health care, inheritance, insurance, pension and retirement, and disability and death.”
DiMento was joined at the hearing by members of the Womens Bar Association, the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association.