Evangelicals, catholics, and other proponents of heterosexual marriage in Massachusetts thought they had plenty of time to rally support. They tried to get a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage on the ballot in 2002 but were stalled by the commonwealth's legislature.

Still, they expected that as the Supreme Judicial Court considered the issue, it would defer to the voting process. It didn't.

Last November the sharply divided court ruled 4-3 in Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health that homosexual couples have a fundamental, constitutional right to obtain marriage licenses. In February, the court said legal recognition of civil unions as an alternative to gay marriage—as done in neighboring Vermont—would not suffice. The ruling, which essentially mandates gay marriage, is set to take effect on May 17.

There is a new sense of unity—and urgency—among defenders of marriage. Across Massachusetts, evangelicals and Catholics have organized rallies and meetings. A February 8 rally at Boston Common, organized by Your Catholic Voice and the Marriage Coalition to support the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment, drew 2,000 to 3,000 people in bitter cold temperatures.

Defenders of marriage fear that if homosexuals are allowed to marry in Massachusetts, those couples could use the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution to demand that other states recognize their unions. Thirty-eight states have passed laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 with strong bipartisan support, is designed to protect those laws. Some legal experts, however, say doma would not survive a constitutional challenge. ...

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