Good afternoon. I’m Tom McNaught. I’m the Deputy Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation. And on behalf of John Shattuck, our ceo of the Foundation, Tom




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НазваниеGood afternoon. I’m Tom McNaught. I’m the Deputy Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation. And on behalf of John Shattuck, our ceo of the Foundation, Tom
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KENNEDY LIBRARY FORUMS

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

11.16.08

2:00 TO 3:30

PAGE



TOM MCNAUGHT: Good afternoon. I’m Tom McNaught. I’m the Deputy Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation. And on behalf of John Shattuck, our CEO of the Foundation, Tom Putnam, the Director of the Presidential Library, and our Board of Directors, I am truly honored to welcome you here today, to today’s forum, marking the fifth anniversary of a very proud and historic chapter of this nation’s journey of equal rights for all citizens.


First, let me offer my thanks to Amy MacDonald, who is our Forum Coordinator, who does all the work in putting these wonderful forums together and enlists the wonderful panelists we have, as we have today. I also want to thank our sponsors. Our forums are made possible by generous support from our lead sponsor, Bank of America, as well as our other Forum supporters, Boston Capital, the Lowell Institute, the Corcoran Jennison Companies, the Boston Foundation, and our media sponsors, The Boston Globe, NECN, and WBUR, which broadcasts all Kennedy Library forums on Sunday evenings at 8:00 p.m.


Just before taking his oath of office as 35th president of the United States, President-elect John F. Kennedy spoke of his pride in Massachusetts. In a January 9th, 1961 address at the State House, to a joint session of the legislature, JFK said, “I speak neither from false provincial pride, nor artful political flattery. For no man about to enter high office in this country can ever be unmindful of the contribution Massachusetts has made to our national greatness. Its leaders have shaped our destiny, long before the Great Republic was born. Its principles have guided our footsteps in times of crisis, as well as in times of calm. Its democratic institutions, including this historic body, have served as beacons lights for other nations, as well as our sister states.”


For what Pericles said to the Athenians has long been true of this Commonwealth, “We do not imitate, for we are a model to others.” And indeed we are. For over 300 years Massachusetts has lead the nation and the world in many ways. With a shot heard around the world, it started a revolution in 1776 that led to the creation of this Republic. In 1780, John Adams crafted the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the world’s oldest functioning written Constitution, and a model for the United States Constitution. And on November 18, 2003, exactly five years ago this week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that, under the very same Constitution, same-sex couples have the right to marry in Massachusetts.


[Applause]


TOM MCNAUGHT: In that historic opinion written by Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, the court ruled-- I’m not going to read the whole opinion, just a short one-- “Marriage is a vital social institution, the exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other, nurtures love and mutual support. It brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return, it imposes weighty, legal, financial, and social obligations. The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the Commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits, and obligations, conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry.


“We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second class citizens.” Of course as we all know, this was not the end of it. The SJC decision set off a firestorm of debate across this state, and across the country, that spilled into that year’s presidential election, and in local and state elections across the land. In Massachusetts, the former Governor, the former Senate President, and the former Speaker of the House all pursued different strategies, including amending the State Constitution, to circumvent, or overturn, this SJC decision.


Governor Romney even dusted off a 1913 State Law, once used to prevent interracial marriages, like that of Barack Obama’s parents, to prevent out-of-state same sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts. But in the end, the Massachusetts Legislature overwhelmingly rejected attempts to amend the State Constitution. Elsewhere, the high courts of New York, New Jersey, and Washington State ruled that there is no right to same-sex marriage under their Constitutions. But in May, the Supreme Court of California ruled that a state law banning same-sex marriage constituted illegal discrimination under the California Constitution. Connecticut Supreme Court then followed, ruling in October that same-sex couples have the right to marry in Connecticut.


Earlier this month, however, a majority of California voters approved Proposition 8. A constitutional amendment overturned the court decision, and banned same-sex marriage. On the same day, Florida and Arizona amended their state constitutions to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. Today, more than 40 states have constitutional bans, or laws, against same-sex marriage. In contrast, the right to marry is available to same-sex couples in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Norway, South Africa and Spain. And both Rhode Island and New York continue to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts and Connecticut.


So, what are we to make of this new frontier of marriage equality? Will the Supreme Court eventually rule on same-sex marriage? Is the Federal Defense of Marriage Act constitutional? Will the U.S. Constitution be amended to prohibit same-sex marriage across the land? What role, if any, will President-Elect Obama take in ensuring equality for same-sex couples? To answer these questions, and many more, we have assembled an all-star panel, a historical panel, of those who have each played a direct and historical role in this chapter of civil rights. Let me introduce them, starting on my left. I’m going to skip over Renee until the end.


Our first panelist, to my left, is Lawrence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor. Professor Tribe is generally recognized as one of the foremost constitutional law experts and Supreme Court practitioners in the United States. He is the author of American Constitutional Law, the most frequently cited treatise in that field, Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes, and most recently, The Invisible Constitution, which is now on sale in our museum store. And I think Professor Tribe would be happy to sign it for you after. And how many people can have a friend of Obama’s sign their book? Professor Tribe graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart from 1967-1968. And he became the Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard in 1968, where he has taught ever since.


In addition to his stature as the nation’s leading constitutional scholar, Professor Tribe has long been a champion of defending civil liberties for all Americans. He has argued 36 high-profile cases before the United States Supreme Court, including one for President Al Gore during the disputed U.S. Presidential Election of 2000. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Professor Tribe’s client in Bowers v. Hardwick, upholding a Georgia State Law criminalizing private, consensual sex by same-sex couples. Professor Tribe was vindicated, however, in 2003, when the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision overruled Bowers in the landmark decision, Lawrence v. Texas, holding that intimate, consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the 14th Amendment. Writing the ACLU’s Amicus Curiae Brief, supporting Lawrence, was Professor Tribe.


Long considered a potential Supreme Court nominee himself, Professor Tribe will most certainly be consulted by President-Elect Obama on future Supreme Court nominations. As law professor of Harvard Law student Barack Obama, who Professor Tribe describes as “The best student I ever had,” Professor Tribe served as judicial advisor to Senator Obama’s campaign. Please join me in welcoming Professor Lawrence Tribe.


[Applause]


TOM MCNAUGHT: Our next panelist, Attorney Mary Bonauto, was lead counsel in the landmark case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which resulted in the historic decision of the Massachusetts’s SJC upholding the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry. Since 1990 Mary has been the Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD, which is New England’s leading legal organization dedicated to ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression. Mary has litigated widely in the state and federal courts and agencies of the six New England states on issues of employment discrimination, child custody, free speech, and civil rights. In 1999, she and two Vermont co-counsel won a ruling from the Vermont Supreme Court that same-sex couples are entitled to all of the benefits and protections of civil marriage in the case of Baker v. State of Vermont.


This ruling prompted the Vermont Legislature to enact the nation’s first civil union law for same-sex couples. A New York Times Magazine feature story on Mary Bonauto compared her to Thurgood Marshall and concluded, “Looking back 50 years to Brown v. Board of Education, most Americans have no difficulty in distinguishing the legacies of Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy from those of the segregationist governors Orval Faubus, Ross Barnett, and George Wallace. And 50 years from now the odds are that Americans will have little difficulty in distinguishing the legacy of Mary Bonauto from those who oppose gay equality.” Please join me in welcoming Mary Bonauto.


[Applause]


TOM MCNAUGHT: Our third distinguished panelist is Senator Marian Walsh, who serves as Assistant Majority Leader in the Massachusetts State Senate, where she has been a leading advocate for upholding the equal protections granted to same-sex couples by the State’s Constitution. Senator Walsh served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1989 to 1992, and in the State Senate since 1993, where she has served as Assistant Majority Leader for the last five years. A native of Boston, Senator Walsh graduated from Ursuline Academy and Newton College of the Sacred Heart, with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and American Studies.


She went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from the Harvard Divinity School, and later a Juris Doctor from the Suffolk University Law School. In February, 2004, Senator Walsh, a devout Catholic, representing one of the most conservative Catholic districts in Massachusetts, rejected the urgent appeals of Archbishop Sean O’Malley and voted against the successive amendments to ban gay marriage in Massachusetts. Her vote of conscience made her a target of efforts to oust her from office. The Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the church’s lobbying arm, later put Senator Walsh at the top of its list of incumbents who needed to “feel the backlash in November,” in the words of an editorial in The Pilot, the house organ of the archdiocese.


Instead Senator Walsh handedly defeated her opponent in 2004 General Election, winning every precinct in the district. And in 2006, Senator Walsh, again, won every town in her district, and I assume you won every district in 2008. As a public official who has made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences, Senator Walsh has demonstrated the kind of political courage described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage. She was actually nominated for the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. And the reason I know that is that I nominated her.


Please join me in welcoming Senator Marian Walsh.


[Applause]


TOM MCNAUGHT: And now we are particularly honored to have as our moderator this afternoon Renee Loth, editor of the editorial page of The Boston Globe, a post Renee has held since 2000. Renee previously served as Deputy Editorial Page Editor for six years. She was also political editor, State House reporter, and magazine writer for The Boston Globe. Before coming to The Globe, Renee was an associate editor of the New English Monthly Magazine, and for five years a political reporter for The Boston Phoenix. In addition to chairing the editorial board, Renee writes frequently on issues of state and national policy, women’s rights, and international development. As editorial page editor of The Boston Globe, Renee brought both civility and reason to the public debate on marriage equality for same-sex couples. And we are extremely fortunate to have her as our seasoned moderator for this afternoon’s discussion. Thank you, Renee.


[Applause]


TOM MCNAUGHT: So please join me in welcoming all of our panelists, Mary Bonauto, Professor Lawrence Tribe, Senator Marian Walsh, and Renee Loth.


[Applause]


RENEE LOTH: So good afternoon and happy anniversary. I want to thank Tom for that wonderful introduction-- and did such a good job of bringing the movement for marriage equality to the present moment, kind of a condensed version-- but bringing us to the present moment. And I hope that this conversation will help us peer a little bit into the future of this movement.


I particularly loved hearing Margaret Marshall’s words again in the Goodridge Decision. The quote from her about how the Massachusetts Constitution does not accept second-class citizens reminds me of my favorite line from the play Angels in America. This happens near the end of the play where the character, Prior, who is looking forward to the dawn of the new millennium, is optimistic despite his many trials. And he says, “The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.”


We have a terrific panel here today as you’ve heard. And I can’t say how great it is to be here with them. What we’re going to try to do is have a conversation that’s about, I think now, 45 minutes long, a real conversation. And then we’ll open it to questions from the audience. You can see there are microphones for you to line up behind. We’re going to try to get as many questions as we can in, because I know there is many to be asked. And so, this becomes a responsibility of yours to be as brief as possible, and I will enforce that.


We’ve seen, now, three distinct ways of making public policy evident in the fight around same-sex marriage rights: the legislature, starting probably with the Vermont Civil Unions and including Congress, the Courts, and the popular initiative.


I’m wondering, from all of you, if you think that one or another will be where most of the action is, looking forward into the future, if one institution is more appropriate, or perhaps better, as the way to solve this question. And for Professor Tribe particularly, and I might as well start with you, if you think that The Supreme Court is ever likely, at least in the near future, to settle this matter as they did in the Loving Decision, Loving v. Virginia decision, which settled the interracial marriage question in the 1960s I believe it was.


PROFESSOR LAWRENCE TRIBE: Well, it took a while for The Supreme Court to do what it did in Loving against Virginia. Remember Brown v. Board was ’54. And, for 13 years, The United States Supreme Court turned back opportunities to hold that there was a fundamental violation of human rights, civil rights, equal protection, due process when a state said that there could be no marriage between a Caucasian and an African-American, which was what Virginia had said. I think it will take a considerable period of time before the Court now, which is split with four clear conservatives, four moderate to liberals, no genuine liberals on the court, no Thurgood Marshalls, no William J. Brennans, no--

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