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Close and narrowing vote on gay marriage coming in Massachusetts:

As of today, gay couples have been marrying in Massachusetts for three years. In each state legislative session since then, there's been an effort to ban gay marriage by constitutional amendment. Initially there was strong legislative opposition to gay marriages, with perhaps 3/5 of the state's 200 house and senate members supporting some form of ban (some wanted to ban gay marriage and civil unions, others just gay marriage).

But opposition to gay marriage has dwindled every year as anti-gay marriage legislators have been defeated in elections and as others have become convinced that recognizing gay unions hasn't hurt anyone. For example, the Republican senate minority leader and co-sponsor of a state constitutional ban changed his mind and opposed the amendment he had previously sponsored. "Gay marriage has begun and life has not changed for the citizens of the commonwealth," he told the New York Times in 2005, "with the exception of those who can now marry who could not before."

Nevertheless, the effort to prevent gay couples from marrying continues. The latest strategy, which started with voter petitions, requires just one fourth (50) of the state's legislators to agree to send the amendment to the voters for approval. The legislators have to do so in two consecutive sessions. Last session 57 legislators voted for the ban, eight more than needed. Sometime this session, perhaps as early as mid-June, there will be a second vote. If it succeeds, the amendment would go on the November 2008 ballot in Massachusetts.

Gay-marriage supporters and national Democratic leaders, concerned about the implications of energizing social conservatives during a presidential election, are pushing hard to get eight more state legislators to switch their votes. That would prevent what would be a mammoth ballot fight in the state, drawing a lot of money and energy from around the country. According to the Boston Globe, they may have gotten support down to 52 in favor of the ban, just three short of what they need to stop it. That alone is an astonishing drop in legislative support from the more than 100 who supported some kind of constitutional ban just three years ago. This will be very interesting to watch.

DDG:
Isn't it wonderful. Special interest groups and party leaders strong-arming the legislative branch (the people's representatives) to prevent the people from having an opportunity to reject a social policy change forced down the people's throats by the judiciary.
5.17.2007 7:37pm
jim:
Somewhere in DDG's response there is a legitimate issue. Even if you oppose banning gay marriage, isn't there some duty to defer to the people? And wouldn't a defeat of the marriage ban via referendum be a whole lot more conclusive.

And does anyone know why they are pushing for a gay marriage ban? Why not just an amendment stating that gay marriage isn't a right? That way the question could be decided by the legislature, which would seem more adept than the courts at tackling this issue.
5.17.2007 7:50pm
scarhill:
What Dale neglects to mention is that almost 150,000 voters signed petitions to put the issue on the ballot. Despite that, pro-gay marriage forces in the legislature have tried a variety of parliamentary dodges to try to keep the question off the ballot.
5.17.2007 7:50pm
Burt Likko (mail) (www):
Jim, you're right and you're not right.

You're right in the sense that yes, the voters have the final say. As far as I know, Massachusetts has an initiative process as well as a referendum process, so the voters can bypass the legislature completely and if there is sufficient support for banning same-sex marriage, that can happen.

You're not right in the sense that interpreting and applying a provision of the Massachusetts Constitution is a task best and ultimately left to the Massachusetts courts, not to the Legislature or the voters. If the voters don't like what's in their state constitution, they can change the constitution, as I mentioned above.

And whether one is an advocate of same-sex marriages or an opponent, the decision of the voters is the voice of democracy. Advocates and opponents need to make their best arguments in those arenas. One of the points of the post is that opposition to same-sex marriage seems to be eroding as the years pass and Massachusetts voters realize that straight people are just as married now as they were before the Goodridge decision.
5.17.2007 7:54pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Yeah what happened to the strategy of simply not voting on the amendment despite the valid petition and the "shall vote" language in the state constitution? I take it they lost some sort of legal fight over that?

And Mr. Carpenter, it's really not a big surprise that the longer people live with something, the less opposition there will be to it. If nothing else, there is probably a large group of people who oppose allowing gay marriages, but wouldn't want to invalidate them once they've existed for three years.
5.17.2007 7:56pm
scarhill:
jim,

I originally supported exactly what you propose--a constitutional amendment to return the question of gay marriage to the legislature, where I think it belongs. But given the hubris of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, gay activists and the legislative leadership, I now plan to vote to ban gay marriage, if I ever get the chance.

My reason is simple. Only a scorched-earth ban will send the message to activists and the courts that the right way to make such changes is legislatively, not by judicial activism.
5.17.2007 8:10pm
Burt Likko (mail) (www):
Scarhill, was 150,000 voters enough to qualify for the ballot? If so, that's where the measure belongs; as I said before, the voters' decision to amend the Commonwealth's Constitution would trump everything.
5.17.2007 8:13pm
jim:
You're not right in the sense that interpreting and applying a provision of the Massachusetts Constitution is a task best and ultimately left to the Massachusetts courts, not to the Legislature or the voters.

When I said that the legislature would be better at tackling the issue, I meant the policy question, not the interpretive question.

My point is only that if one is talking about amending the constition, the legislature seems like the place to put the power to decide that policy question, because a legislature has the flexibility that a constitutional provision, however loosely interpreted, does not.
5.17.2007 8:15pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Dale or someone else sane,

I don't follow the situation in Mass closely. What did the mass courts rule again? How is it "rammed down the throats" of the body politic?

I guess I am inherently skeptical of the idea that - unless there is a state equal protection ruling from a state supreme court - amendments (as opposed to statutes) serve any purpose other than to try to handcuff future legislative majorities. If there is no supreme court decision purporting to interpret the state constitution to overcome, then it's unclear how an amendment's countermajoritarian qualities differ in any meaningful respect from those of the type of court ruling about which you complain.
5.17.2007 8:20pm
Kovarsky (mail):
in "you complain," "you" is meant to refer to the people grousing about how the rabidly circumspect political majority in mass. was deprived of its opportunity to settle this policy dispute.
5.17.2007 8:27pm
AppSocRes (mail):
The chief justice of the Mass. supreme court actively conspired with homosexual activists to bring this issue before the court. Instead of then recusing herself she supplied the one vote margin determining that John Adams had homosexual marriage in mind when he wrote the Massachusetts Constitution.

Homosexual activists and dimocratic operatives tried to stop the last legislative vote on the referendum, despite clear Constitutional language that required a vote.

Now homosexual activists and dimocratic operatives are bribing and threatening legislators to get them not to vote or to vote against the referendum. The Boston Globe reported today that one key legislator who was going to vote for the referendum has been given a high-paying job so he will resign from the General Court before the vote. Intense and vicious pressure is being placed on other pro-referendum legislators. All this to prevent the people of Massachusetts from deciding this issue.

If the referendum is allowed I will vote for the amendment banning gay marriage; not because of any prejudice against homosexuals -- most of those I know could care less about this issue -- but because I resent elites mocking the Massachusetts Constitution and the democratic process. If the referendum is scuttled by the skulduggery of homosexual activists and undemocratic dimocrat carpetbaggers, I will involve myself in activities to renew the referendum process or pass a similar amendment to the US Constitution.

The disdain for the Massachusetts Constitution and the democratic process shown by homosexual activists and dimocratic operatives may reverberate in unpleasant ways for all of us further down the line. It breeds a profound contempt for the rule of law and democracy.
5.17.2007 8:44pm
Kovarsky (mail):
AppSocRes,

How edifying.
5.17.2007 8:46pm
The Red Menace (mail):
Gay-marriage supporters and national Democratic leaders, concerned about the implications of energizing social conservatives during a presidential election

What exactly are these implications, other than the possibility of large numbers of people exercising their right to vote in a manner inconsistent with the views of the referenced groups.

[S]tate Representative Brian P. Wallace, a South Boston Democrat who has voted for the amendment, is a leading candidate for a lucrative post at the Massachusetts Sports and Entertainment Commission, a move supported by legislative leaders seeking to kill the amendment.

Mr. Carpenter, I would generally call myself a supporter of same-sex unions, but is this really the way you think it should be enacted?
5.17.2007 8:46pm
scarhill:
Kovarsky,

No doubt you don't consider me to be "someone else sane". Nonetheless, in Goodridge the SJC ruled:

"Limiting the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the basic premises of individual liberty and equality under the law protected by the Massachusetts Constitution."

Not only that, but two of the Goodridge majority have intimated that they might vote to overrule an amendment to the constitution on that basis. See this VC post.
5.17.2007 8:50pm
Kovarsky (mail):
scarhill,

no, i consider you quite sane. i was trying to screen out people like AppSocRes, who cannot convey information without sandbox editorializations like "dimocrat," and the like.

i honestly just didn't know what the alignment between courts and legislatures was in Mass.

thanks,
lee
5.17.2007 8:59pm
cybernion:
A lot of the comments above imply that the majority have the right to decide the rights of a minority. This is a fundamentally flawed concept. There is a natural right to marriage, for if not, who is harmed?
5.17.2007 9:11pm
The Red Menace (mail):
There is a natural right to marriage

So then you support the rights of three men who wish to wed each other? Or is the right extinguished at some point? If so, where? Or perhaps it would be better stated that the right to marriage has always been understood in the context of "one man-one woman" and that asserting that two men can get married is really an extrapolation of the right you reference? An extrapolation that requires, if not consensus, then certainly reasonable debate. An effort which is somewhat difficult when opponents of a given position are bought-off so that the people in the state have no voice in the matter.
5.17.2007 9:19pm
jim:
There is a natural right to marriage

In some American Constitutional natural rights discourse, there are said to be two types of rights: privileges and immunities. One is a first order natural right that cannot be alienated, another is the product given to individuals in return for the alienation of a second order natural right. Lawrence v. Texas would seem to establish homosexual relationships in the first category, not the second.
5.17.2007 9:38pm
Mark F. (mail):
Frankly, I think it might be best for an anti-gay marriage amendment to go on the ballot. It actually might lose, and that would shut up the anti-gay side.

I have a question for the anti-gay marrige people: Should every issue be placed before the voters? If so, why don't we just do away with the legislative branch and have direct democracy?
5.17.2007 9:45pm
Beem:
There is also a rich and delightful irony here for those with a memory for Bay State politics. I myself am a Massachusetts resident, so I remember quite clearly when anti-gay legislators here would repeately use parlimentary procedures to kill civil unions bills in committee rather than let them come to vote. That was before the State Supreme Court ruling, obviously.

Of course now that the shoe is on the other foot, such tactics are suddenly unacceptable. But turnabout is fairplay, methinks ;)

And Mark F., I sort of agree with you that some good might still come of ballot question, if a crushing defeat finally convinces the anti-gay forces here to quit their belly-aching. Given what happened in Arizona, I think the prospects of the ballot here in Mass. are slim to none. But given the past behavior of the gay-marriage, they deserve no quarter. If they can't get 50 legistators to sign off, tough luck, I say.
5.17.2007 10:42pm
scarhill:
Mark F.:

Should every issue be placed before the voters? If so, why don't we just do away with the legislative branch and have direct democracy?

I'm not really an "anti-gay marriage" person, since my major objection is to the process by which gay marriage was imposed in MA. I would have been quite willing to let the legislature (or the people, via the initiative process provided for in the Massachusetts Constitution) vote on gay marriage. What I object to is an unelected, life-tenured court short-circuiting the democratic process.

As I said above, I will vote for the amendment in order to send the message to activists and the courts that the right way to make such changes is legislatively, not by judicial activism.
5.17.2007 11:33pm
F. Rottles:
Daniel Chapman [LINK]:


there is probably a large group of people who oppose allowing gay marriages, wouldn't want to invalidate them once they've existed for three years


The proposed amendment would not invalidate the relationshps already recognized. This would be made more clear during an actual amendment campaign.


Mark F.:


Should every issue be placed before the voters? If so, why don't we just do away with the legislative branch and have direct democracy?


This is not just any legislative issue.

This is about the foundational human institution and its shared public meaning. No consensus has been built that over-rides the pre-Goodridge consensus.

Also, this entails the corruption of self-governance in Massachusetts.

The judicial branch has its part to play in a democratic form of government, but the SJC over-reached, the executive caved, and the amendment process has been thwarted by anti-constitutional ploys.

Note that the procedural obstructionists jammed the process even prior to the Goodridge opinion. And ...

Beem:


Of course now that the shoe is on the other foot, such tactics are suddenly unacceptable. But turnabout is fairplay, methinks.

Given what happened in Arizona, I think the prospects of the ballot here in Mass. are slim to none.


You mean that using procedural tactics to sideline unpopular legislative proposals which had no chance of passage is as objectionable as derailing the legitimate process of amending the state constitution?

You set the bar too low for the SSM side and far too high for the defence of marriage. That is an example of how this SSM issue and the campaign has corrupted self-governance in Massachusetts.

The SSM campaign failed to enact the merger with marriage. The Goodridge opinion is just that, an opinion, and its 180-stay expired long ago. Yet, there is no change to the statutory provisions for one and one woman per marriage.

If this is how SSM will be imposed, then, it is fair to say that the SSM supporters in Massachusetts are not democrats and are not truly in favor of equal rights. At least, not on this, their pet project.

Also, note that in Arizona the narrow defeat of the state initiative was not the product of a pro-SSM campaign. In fact, the opponents of the iniative avoided mention of the 'gay marriage' aspect and focussed on elderly unwed cohabitation instead. The obsfucation campaign did not build consensus in favor of SSM.

It is times such as this that the true colors of SSM supporters are shown. The campaign consists of extremists and enablers, such as Dale Carpenter, who reveal themselves to be adherents to the axiom: SSM, right or wrong.
5.18.2007 12:30am
Randy R. (mail):
Considering the fact that no 'wrongs' have occured in any of the places where SSM has been instituted, such as Spain, Canada, The Netherlands, Belgium and Massachusetts, one can certainly say, SSM right.

Somehow, civilization has marched onward. And in fact, the news recently reported that divorces are at their lowest point since 1970.

I do find it funny that people are now going to vote against SSM, not because they are against it, but the way it was introduced. Methinks that these people, had there been a popular vote in 2001, would have voted against it back then as well.

It's just that no one wants to admit that they hate gays and can't stand the idea of two men or two women living in conjugal bliss.
5.18.2007 12:39am
Randy R. (mail):
But hey, go ahead and vote against SSM. The real people you hurt are the children of gay parents who will have parents are not married, and therefore have none of the social protections that married parents can give their children.

That'll show 'em.
5.18.2007 1:15am
Taltos:
It's just that no one wants to admit that they hate gays and can't stand the idea of two men or two women living in conjugal bliss.

I don't hate gays, I don't really have a problem with gay marriage (though I think the insistence of some that it be called marriage is silly and merely an attempt to needle the other side), and yet I think that the federal government and the judiciary have absolutely no place in trying to force it into law. The citizens of each state should decide the issue in whatever manner they have set in place to do so as the constitution intended.
5.18.2007 4:30am
Federal Dog:
As noted above, Deval Patrick has been attempting to bribe members of the legislature into killing the measure before it goes to popular vote by offering them lucrative jobs with his administration. Whatever your position is on gay marriage, bribery to subvert the people's right to vote is scummy.
5.18.2007 8:40am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Thanks, F. Rottles... I didn't know that. There goes the one hypothetical reason I'd have to opposing such an amendment.
5.18.2007 11:28am
Joel Rosenberg (mail) (www):
So then you support the rights of three men who wish to wed each other?

I don't speak for him, but I do. Or, more precisely, I think it's good public policy to permit consenting adults to enter into most contractual relationships that suit their perceived interests and needs, whether or not I might want to enter into similar relationships myself.

That said, my own (indirect) experience is that polyamorous arrangements of n parties get complicated pretty much in relation to n-squared. Some people can either tolerate or like complications; others don't.

And, that said, my own (again, indirect) experience is that openly polyamorous relationships tend to be much less complicated and hurtful than affairs in supposedly monogamous ones.
5.18.2007 12:00pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Whatever your position is on gay marriage, bribery to subvert the people's right to vote is scummy."

Right. All this indignation because gays are using the political process! What an outrage!

Yet, I don't see a similar outrage from any of you about the people who are anti-SSM. During that petition drive that garnered 150,000, it turns out that there were widespread reports of fraud in collecting those signatures. People were told that it was a petition to *support* SSM, for instance. (That occured several times). There were reports, verified by the press, that some petitions actually had the top sheet say it was to support SSM, but the sheet they actually signed said it was against it. After these names were published online, many people came forward and recanted their signatures because of this fraud.

Let's not even get to the smears that the anti-gay crowd spewed out, that this will allow polygamy (it doesn't), that men will marry teenaged boys (can't) and that marriage will be destroyed (it wasn't).

So, if you are so indignant about all this, then I suppose you are going to vote in favor of SSM, just to show those people that they can't subvert the democratic process, right?

Oh, I guess not. Your indignation only cuts one way.
5.18.2007 12:20pm
F. Rottles:
Prior to the Goodridge opinion, the petition process got more signatures than needed but the obstructionists did not even vote on the iniative to take it to the next step in the amending process. That was a flagrant violation of the state constitution.

This second petitition got more than twice the number of signatures required. The judiciary certified the petition. For a second time.

The high court conceded that the iniative vote was required at the constitutional conference.

The way that the SSM campaign has sought to impose the merger with marriage in Massachusetts foretells how self-governance will continue to be corrupted in schools and other areas of state social policy.

Someone earlier mentioned children. The SSM campaign's tactics were on full display when regarding Boston Catholic Charities. The SSM supporters sought to impose anti-Catholic policies onto the Catholic agencies. That was not for the sake of foster children. Just like the imposition of SSM has not been for the sake the children in Massachusetts.

SSM is about institutionalization of gay identity politics. It is not really about marriage nor about children. The SSM campaign will use any means -- no matter the ethical problems -- to achieve its end -- imposing gay identity politics onto all social policies.

It is not about equality when a tiny subset of nonmarital arrangements are treated as superior to the much wider range of families who are not included in the change the SSM campaign seeks to impose.
5.18.2007 1:29pm
F. Rottles:
Daniel Chapman, no problem. A full fledged campaign would probably be heated, but it would also shed brighter light on the substantive issues. The SSM campaign fears such an open debate.

And, as Carpenter suggested, there are politicians who fear that the iniative will finally make them come out from hiding and either declare to be in favor or against the imposition of SSM.

A vote against SSM, at this point, is also a vote against the way SSM was pushed onto the top of the agenda by its advocates. It is also a vote against the negligence of previous legislators who ran away from the issue in the first place.

The SSM campaign could have introduced and fought for passage of legislation -- even prior to Goodridge -- and worked the democratic process on the merits of their arguments. Instead, they turned the process upside down.

A Yes vote on the amendment now becomes a vote that says to the governing bodies -- the people of Massachusetts have a government, not the other way around.
5.18.2007 1:38pm
SteveS:
"A Yes vote on the amendment now becomes a vote that says to the governing bodies -- the people of Massachusetts have a government, not the other way around."

No it doesn't. A Yes vote enacts the provisions of the amendment into the constitution. If you're going to complain so extensively about misuse of the democratic process, then don't use constitutional amendments to send a message. If you want to send a message to those legislators who you feel misused the process, work for their defeat or impeachment.
5.18.2007 2:26pm
Bill N:
Federal Dog:

Deval Patrick has been attempting to bribe members of the legislature into killing the measure before it goes to popular vote by offering them lucrative jobs with his administration.

Can you provide some specifics? Which legislators? Which jobs? I hadn't caught this.

And, Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley has recently promised a long legal fight if the Mass. Constitution is amended. Her theory, along with the two justices in the Goodridge majority (but in a separate case, the name of which escapes me), is that the Constitution cannot be amended because such an amendment would deviate from the original founding principles of the document, and take away rights that had already been granted (except for, well, the right of the people to be sovereign).
5.18.2007 3:24pm
F. Rottles:
SteveS., it is more than a vote on the provisions. The SSM campaign has made it so both in how SSM was imposed and how the SSM advocates have behaved subsequently.

Merely by participating in the iniatitive process, a citizen sends the message -- whether he is in favor or against. By voting he sends a stronger message. By voting Yes he sends the strongest message.

The obstructionists have opposed giveing voters a voice in favor or against their project and their methods. So a Yes vote sends a much stronger message as a rebuke.

A yes vote does not reward the obstructionists but still leaves open the opportunity to pursue SSM through the democratic process. It restores the principle of self-governance and is thus remedial.

A yes vote also prevents further encroachments imposed by the SSM campaign and their obstructionist enablers. I mentioned adoption and schools as examples. A yes vote is thus remedial and preventative. It resets the table and puts the people ahead of the government.

It is a vote on the merits of the provisions, an affirmation of marriage, as well as remedial and preventative. Take all of that message or some portion of it. The SSM campaign created this context so voters are absolutely justified in speaking to that context and favoring the iniatitive for any of reasons I've described.

A yes vote says, "the People have a government, not the other way around."
5.18.2007 3:41pm
AppSocRes (mail):
Bill N

Can you provide some specifics? Which legislators? Which jobs? I hadn't caught this.

See Globe Article This is the same link Dale Carpenter provides in his posting. It gies the name of the legislator, the position, and the salary.
5.18.2007 3:54pm
Randy R. (mail):
Rottles: The SSM campaign's tactics were on full display when regarding Boston Catholic Charities. The SSM supporters sought to impose anti-Catholic policies onto the Catholic agencies. That was not for the sake of foster children. Just like the imposition of SSM has not been for the sake the children in Massachusetts.

And you conveniently ignore the fact that the Boston Catholic Charities routinely placed foster care children into the homes of gay adoptive parents for many years and had no problem with it. You also ignore the fact that they received state funds to do that. Then when SSM was approved, suddenly gay people were no longer good enough. What changed? nothing, of course. So Catholic Charities wanted state funds, but they didn't want to play by the rules. Their option: continue to accept state funds, but play by state rules, or give up state funds and place children where they liked to.

They decided to give up placing any adoptions at all. No one required them of it. So please don't play the 'children' card on this one.

But as I suspected, your indignation only goes one way. Basically, anything that supports SSM is wrong and bad, even though you have yet to produce any evidence of harm in Mass as a result of SSM, and anything that the anti-gay crowd does is okay with you. I have no problem with that, but at least be honest that you are motivated by a fear or dislike of gay people. At least I could respect that.
5.18.2007 5:24pm
Gary47 (mail):
There is one huge, insurmountable problem in the arguments of the opponents of marriage equality. We live in a republic, not a democracy. This is precisely the sort of issue where we should use the delegated legislature to make a decision, instead of letting mob rule make a decision at the ballot box.
5.18.2007 6:52pm
Federal Dog:
I just tried to post the link directly, but this site will not allow it. Another account of Patrick's bribery of legislators to kill the vote may be found at the Boston Herald site; see May 10, 2007 (Casey Ross, "Gov on Gay-Wed Votes: Let's Make a Deal").
5.18.2007 6:56pm
Federal Dog:
Sorry for multiple posts, but here is the abstract (from the archives):

GOV ON GAY-WED VOTES: LET'S MAKE A DEAL
[All Editions]

Boston Herald - Boston, Mass.
Author: CASEY ROSS
Date: May 10, 2007
Section: NEWS
Text Word Count: 335

Abstract (Document Summary)

Gov. Deval Patrick has dangled job offers in front of anti-gay- marriage lawmakers to persuade them to switch their votes and kill a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex nuptials, sources said.

Supporters of gay marriage said Patrick has worked extremely hard behind the scenes to defeat the proposed ban, and the sources said those efforts have included approaching lawmakers believed to be amenable to a vote switch and telling them they would be considered for administration jobs if they helped defeat the ban.
5.18.2007 6:59pm
F. Rottles:
Adoption agencies are licensed. Even without funding, the over threat made to Boston Catholic Charities was to run them out of adoptions if they did not comply with the anti-Catholic policy.

The state amending process is not" mob rule" and to claim it is can only reveal the fragility of the SSM campaign's tolerance for democracy.

The obstructionists would hope to rule by a different criteria that begins with disparaging the republican form of self-government government of which the amending process is not a foreign device in Massachusetts.

In our republic, the People have a government, not the other way around.
5.18.2007 8:27pm
BryanP:
To Federal Dog: Some of us think that exploiting the constitution by using the citizen's initiative process for the exact opposite of its intended purpose (it's purpose it protect/expand rights, not to remove them) is "pretty scummy". If you disagree that petitioners have exploited the power given to them by the Mass. constitution, read its preamble, it's pretty clear about its intent in giving the people to power to alter it.
5.18.2007 8:53pm
Federal Dog:
Where does the MA constitution say that its purpose is to "expand rights?"
5.18.2007 9:04pm