BOSTON Opponents of same-sex marriage announced legislation Wednesday to provide hospital visitation and other rights to gay couples, intending to counter claims that banning same-sex marriage in Massachusetts would deny certain benefits to gays and lesbians.
The Benefits Fairness Act would grant “reciprocal benefits” to gay couples should the state enact a proposed ban on gay marriage. The bill also aims to grant people in other family relationships, such as siblings or cousins living together, the rights they would have under marriage, such as burial rights and transfer-of-property rights.
Hawaii enacted similar legislation in 1997, and Oregon is currently reviewing a reciprocal benefits bill, said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which opposes gay marriage.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since a landmark 2003 ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court. Opponents are pushing for a constitutional amendment to ban it, and have gathered enough signatures to get a proposal on the 2008 ballot, though there are still some legislative hurdles before it can go to voters.
Rep. Philip Travis, a sponsor of the bill, said at a Statehouse news conference that the legislation “fills in the gap” between benefits afforded legally wed couples and others who cannot marry.
“This is not against the gay community,” he said.
Marc Solomon, campaign director for MassEquality, which supports same-sex marriage, characterized the bill as a “hoax.”
“There are well over 1,500 benefits, protections and responsibilities that come with marriage. This is throwing in a few,” he said.
Travis said the legislation attempts to cover as many benefits as possible. He said he planned to file it within the next few weeks.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2006.