Thursday, January 04, 2007

Is Massachusetts for Real?

On January 2, while the rest of the nation was watching coverage of Gerald Ford's funeral, the outgoing Massachusetts General Assembly decided to move forward a "citizens petition" to ban gay marriage in the Massachusetts Constitution, despite the fact that gay marriage has been legal since May 2004 and over 8500 same sex couples have wed without destroying straight families or causing Massachusetts itself to be washed into the sea by a vengeful and angry God.

Yet, there's hope in this petition. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts told the legislature it had a duty to vote on citizen petitions. In November, the Massachusetts General Assembly simply adjourned a constitutional convention without voting on the anti-gay measure. The rule on citizen petitions is that only 25% of the legislature, sitting as a constitutional convention, has to OK an initiative for it to pass. Out of 200 legislators, only 62 voted for the anti-gay petition. That's only 31%!

The newly elected governor of Massaschusetts, Deval Patrick, had this to say about the vote:

"I am disappointed by today's vote in the Constitutional Convention. We have never used the initiative petition to limit individual freedoms and personal privacy, but today's vote was a regrettable step in that direction.

"We have work to do over the next year to turn this around. I am heartened by the fact that the overwhelming majority of the members of the Legislature — a margin of over 2 to 1 — voted to move on. I pledge to do what I can to build on that momentum, so that our Constitution will continue to stand for liberty and freedom, and not discrimination."

I cannot imagine a day where Sonny Perdue or any elected Governor in Georgia would issue such a statement. Here's a man who was overwhelming elected to his office, and he's quite forcefully advocating that the amendment be defeated, and not be put to a vote. Unlike Mitt Romney, who lead rallies against gay marriage, and railed about how evil it was and how it harmed children, Gov. Patrick personally petitioned lawmakers to vote down the proposal, and seems to indicate he will continue to do so.

The roll call is now a matter of public record, and the newly elected Massachusetts General Assembly has a gain of 6 votes in favor of keeping gay marriage. That means only 6-7 more votes are needed to defeat the measure, and many think that those 6-7 votes can be found before the issue arises again later this year.

The Boston Globe's editorial board said it best:

"When a final vote is taken by the new Legislature, the members must consider whether this is an appropriate issue to put to the voters. We believe Massachusetts voters would not take away this right, and a popular endorsement might be considered healthy. But civil rights are fundamental, and gay marriage should not be subject to plebiscite here, any more than it would have been appropriate to have Alabama voters directly decide school integration or Virginia voters decide interracial marriage."

That's the whole problem with the "let people vote" mentality. Civil rights really shouldn't be put to a vote. You know that old time segregationists are kicking themselves for not using this method to block those "uppity" blacks who had the temerity to demand to be treated as equal citizens. Imagine what the vote totals would have been all throughout the South in the 1950s and 1960s if segregation, interracial marriage, or school desegregation had been put to a vote. What sense of decency stopped those bigots of the mid-20th century from using the popular vote as a bludgeon? And more importantly, what happened to it?

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