Thursday, April 13, 2006

Soporific SSM Session

For news and views on this week's anti-same-sex-marriage amendment hearing, Bay Windows did not disappoint. Laura Kiritsy must have loaded up on caffeine for the six and one-half hour session.

As we thought, the arguments against and for the amendment have found air so often for so long, the Judiciary Committee hearing was pretty much pro forma. That's why the coverage was so light in the mass media.

The 17 committee members did alternating cameos, apparently just to say they showed up. "The majority of the testimony was heard only by committee co-chairs Sen. Robert Creedon (D-Brockton) and Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty (D-Charlestown), both of whom stayed for the duration and did a commendable job of appearing to listen intently throughout, which, in reality, just isn’t humanly possible."

This was the fifth such hearing in the past seven years. The only new angle was that SS couples could present themselves, showing that they were regularly folk, that they deserved the right to marry, and that they had stable families. Oh, yeah, and several business groups said it would be disruptive, bad PR and expensive -- give it a rest.

Attorney General Tom Reilly's decision to let this amendment drive proceed dispite its clear legal flaws also came up in the hearing. Citing the two constitutional conventions in which the previous, very similar version got hearings over two years, Mitchell Adams said, "We have discussed this ad nauseum." He was Gov. Weld's Department of Revenue Commissioner and is executive director of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. He is openly gay and married.

He added, "It's time to move on, so that we can address other issues people really care about."

Otherwise, it was same-old/same-old for the most part. SS couples gain in public favor slowly but steadily. It's hard for the anti forces to portray them as some nefarious other when people at this hearing as well in their regular lives can see and know them.

You can catch the hard-core anti-lingo at the drive's lead, VoteOnMarriage.Org. There you get three speeches, all with great emotional pull and all based on personal assertions. Together though, they offer a clear view of what's driving the drive.

BW did provide a nice vignette from the hearing that brightened the dull day:
A serene-looking middle-aged woman took a seat at the table in front of Creedon and O’Flaherty and confidently stated “You have heard several versions of Christianity today. I would like to give you the correct version.” She then proceeded to read, without comment, Biblical passages from the Book of Genesis, the Gospel of Matthew and 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6, readings that dealt with the creation of man and woman, marriage between a man and a woman and the evils of fornication, respectively. When she had finished, she solemnly intoned, “Ladies and gentleman, the word of the Lord.”

O’Flaherty then jokingly asked her if he’d now be excused from Mass on Thursday. The woman responded that since it was Holy Thursday, “it would be nice” if he attended.

The Committee's burden to vote ought to pass or ought not to pass. They have until April 27th to announce.

As one predictor, Co-Chair O'Flaherty is anti-SSM, but he has said he opposes this amendment because it also would outlaw civil unions. He says that as House chair of the Committee, he will listen and discuss it.

If the Committee says ought not to pass and the constitutional convention doesn't get 50 votes out of 200 legislators for the amendment, it dies well deservedly. The anti-SSM folk would have to wait three years before putting this or a similar amendment up for a petition drive.

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