Thursday, May 26, 2005

New Boston Mugwump

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly is about out of chances. He made another effort to please everyone yesterday. As he runs for governor, he is likely to find that he just cannot accomplish that.

The subject yesterday was the 1913 law about marriage that Gov. Mitt Romney dusted off to attack same-sex marriage. (Shame on that cowardly man with the fancy hair.)

The law forbids marrying folk from other states here if the marriage would be illegal in their home state(s). It was written to prevent interracial marriages and keep the peace with discriminatory, anti-miscegenation states. Since that form of bigotry is not longer on the books, the law (Chapter 207:Section 12:CERTAIN MARRIAGES PROHIBITED) has not been enforced for decades.

Reilly tells Democrats, liberals and interest groups that he supports same-sex marriage as the law of the land, while telling Republicans and reactionaries that he supports the 1913 statute as the law of the land.

Republican Party Executive Director Tim O'Brien got Reilly to bite on that one yesterday. He had a letter delivered asking whether the AG would defend keeping 207:12 on the books. Gay-rights groups want it repealed.

Reilly wasted no time in having First Assistant Stephanie Lovell email a reply. According to the Boston Globe, the reply included:
It is our job to defend the laws of the Commonwealth. This is what we have done from the beginning of this case, and is what we will continue to do.
Of course, both as AG and gubernatorial candidate, the gutsy, visionary response would have been that following the implementation of same-sex marriages here, such laws that conflict need to be dropped or changed. Yet, Tommy wants it all ways.

Reilly's office has until June 24 to file its brief in the Cote-Whitacre case on this matter. In February 2006, the Supreme Judicial Court will hear GLAD's appeal of its loss at the Superior Court level in an effort to overturn 207:12.

The other announced candidate for governor, Deval Patrick, will unquestionably benefit from Reilly's failed gambit. Yesterday, his statement was strong and to the point, as a governor should speak. "It's a shame that we are spending any more time on the subject...This is old politics all over again. The court got it right. Let's move on."

The cochair of the Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, Arline Isaacson, was less kind. "I think it is deplorable that the highest-ranking elected official in the Democratic Party in this state would act this way. Tom Reilly has to decide what he really thinks and feels about this issue. Defending an obviously antigay application of this law is reprehensible."


sco said...

Reilly certainly has his faults, I'll be the firt to admit. However, I blame the legislature for keeping this law on the books after they've had a year to do something about it. Just for once, I'd like to see them tackle this issue rather than leave it up to the courts.

massmarrier said...

Maybe we can keep our perspective by looking at the 1675 ban on Native Americans entering Boston. It took only 238 years and change for that to be repealed.

That's something useful the courts could have attended to. However, the procedure was for the city to pass the law, and the colonial General Court (legislature) to approve it on October 13, 1675. Then all those old laws came over when Massachusetts became a commonwealth as part of the new United States. Now for centuries, not just decades, people would look at such laws and say, "That's wrong. It doesn't belong on the books." Finally, Mayor Tommy Menino gets around to getting a vote to repeal it from the City Council, signs it, and has to send it to the legislature for approval.

This home-rule thing is pretty weird too. Because the state capital is here, Boston, like the District of Columbia, has to get approval of the legislature to change any laws.

Maybe that should be the next thing that changes.