Former Mass. Lawmaker Fights for Gay Marriage

When Cheryl Jacques (search) resigned her state Senate seat to lead the nation's largest gay rights organization, she looked forward to "shaping the outcome of the next chapter in the book of civil rights."

Timing is everything, of course.

Jacques accepted the offer just two weeks before Massachusetts' high court ruled that gay couples have a right to the benefits of marriage. Last week, the court clarified that nothing short of full-fledged marriage would do.

A joint House-Senate constitutional convention is scheduled to begin Wednesday on whether to ban gay marriage (search), and Jacques will be a distant observer instead of a particpant in the Statehouse vote.

Still, Jacques, who is gay, feels she helped educate senators about gay rights during her 11 years in office. And as president of the Human Rights Campaign (search), she has continued to fight for Massachusetts — spending $300,000 on Boston-based staff, polling, and advertising on the issue.

"I'm able to marshal national resources to help Massachusetts," Jacques said in a telephone interview from her Washington office.

Meanwhile, the high court's ruling is set to allow same-sex couples to begin getting married on May 17 — about two years before the state constitution could be changed to ban the ceremonies.

Jacques maintains a Massachusetts residence with her longtime partner and their 22-month-old twin boys, and says the couple has been talking about getting married.

"I'm honored we can even have that discussion," she said. "It's always good for Americans when families are stronger."