Thursday, May 25, 2006

Reilly Wriggles Again on Gay Marriage

Zombie issues walk again. This time same-sex marriage was staggering around the Channel 56 Democratic gubernatorial debate.

It occurred yesterday and will broadcast today, Thursday, at 10:30 p.m. David from BlueMassGroup live blogged it here. The Globe report is here.

Our not so brave and not so principled Attorney General Tom Reilly did the wrong thing, did not do the right thing, and can't own up to it, as we reported numerous times, including here. His mantra remains, "I was only doing my job." It did not cut it and does not cut it.

Gubernatorial co-candidates Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrieli understandably put out their support for SSM and questioned the Mortician's claim that he too was SSM friendly.

In the ask-another-candidate portion of the debate, Gabrieli ask Patrick whether Reilly was right to let the ballot initiative advance an amendment banning further SSM here. As the Globe put the action:
Patrick noted that two former attorneys general disagreed with Reilly's decision, before adding, "I think that Chris has asked a fair question: You say that you support gay marriage. It's tough, I get that. But then you take a position that was not required in terms of the ballot initiative, and I think it sends a mixed signal."

Reilly, wearing a bemused look as he sat beside the other two, replied, "I've done my job every step of the way." At another point, he added: "You can't pick and choose which laws you're going to enforce and not enforce."

Of course, Reilly's job is to set legal positions and policy for the commonwealth. There's no playbook or cheat sheet covering the complex cases. It requires judgment and morality.

Surprisingly, this issue is another that many thought has been talked through. However, in a second post on his live blogging this debate, David muses:
The gay marriage question was particularly interesting: Gabrieli's question to Patrick, in which he said that he wasn't a lawyer so he was looking for a lawyer's take on whether Reilly did the right thing, couldn't have been a better set-up. Patrick used his one-minute response to explain why Reilly didn't have to do what he did, which then forced Reilly onto the defensive in the three-minute discussion with Patrick playing lawyer and Gabrieli playing the layman "gosh, Tom, I just don't understand your position" card. You'd almost think they planned that one in advance....

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Anonymous said...

Ok, Reilly is either a liar, or seeking to do some serious revisonist history on what he did in Nov. 2003 after Goodridge was decided.

David at Blue Mass Group blogged that Reilly said this in the debate last night:

4.51. First topic: "Do you support the marriage amendment." Lots of taped interviews showing people asking about gay marriage. Goes to DP: "I support gay marriage because the SJC got it right. People come before their government as equals." Open for debate: Reilly: "I support gay marriage as well." Says he's proud of how MA has handled this difficult issue. "Time to move on. I'm opposed to the constitutional amendment." Gabrieli: "I supported it in 2002, and I support it today. We've seen it works fine, hasn't made any difference to marriages of anybody else."

4.53 Reilly says he got a phone call from Romney after Goodridge was decided. Reilly says "No Governor, gay marriage is legal as of May 17, and I will enforce that law." Again, "time for us to move on."

If this is an accurate report of what Reilly said, he just told a big fat one. In November and December, 2003, after the decision, Reilly was all over the TV saying how the decision was unclear about whether marriage was required, or maybe civil unions were ok, or perhaps some other bag of marriage-like rights package would be acceptable.

He did not come out and say the SJC has spoken, marriage is required.

The Washinton Times reported on Nov, 23 2003,(6 days post decision),

"The Goodridge ruling calls for "basic fairness" for homosexual couples but is ambiguous about how the state should accomplish that mandate, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said last week.
The legislature, not the courts, should be deciding how to make profound social changes, Mr. Reilly said Friday. The legislature, therefore, should take the "strong opportunity" of the next 180 days to produce a law offering marriagelike protections to homosexual couples, he said."

The Boston Phoenix in an editorial in the Nov. 28 - Dec. 4, 2003 issue,

"LAST WEEK, Attorney General Tom Reilly said there was "considerable ambiguity" in last week’s ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed in the Commonwealth."

" Marshall’s focus was clearly on marriage.

As an attorney, Reilly surely knows that. Still, he called on the legislature to pass a civil-union bill, claiming that such a gays-only marriage-lite law would satisfy the court’s ruling that lesbian and gay couples be allowed to marry in six months’ time."

Now, if Reilly means that after the SJC ruled specifically on the General Court's question to them whether civil unions would be acceptable in 2004, [not in Nov., 2003 when Goodridge itself was decided] he told the Gov. that marriage is legal as of May 17, that is more historically accurate.

Some might say this is a case of misspeaking, rather than an outright lie, or trying to make it look like he supported marriage equality when he did not. Now that the polls have shifted on this issue.

But given his track record on this issue, I'm not inclined to give the AG the benefit of the doubt.

P.S.- There are more examples of his position in Nov., 2003, such as an interview he did with Scott Lehigh of the Globe, but I could only find excepts of it, like this one from Bay Windows,

"But in an
interview with Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, Reilly did
identify where he thinks the room for a remedy short of marriage
might lie.

According to Lehigh's Nov. 21 column, Reilly said the last few
paragraphs of the majority opinion suggest the court might be
satisfied with something less than marriage for same-sex couples.

Reilly pointed out this sentence as "pivotal":

"We declare that barring an individual from the protections,
benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that
person would marry a person of the same sex violates the
Massachusetts Constitution."

While very similar to the sentence in the first paragraph of the
ruling - which talks about benefits "conferred by civil marriage,"
this sentence, from the last paragraph, talks about benefits "of

"My interpretation of that," Reilly told Lehigh, "is that if you
satisfy the court that those basic rights and benefits and
protections are afforded to same-sex couples - and I believe that can
be done and should be done - that would satisfy the court."
P.P.S. - Sorry if the links are off, I have not done them in a long time. Sorry also for writing so much, but can you tell I do not have a good opinion of Mr. Reilly?

Anonymous said...

One more thing - this does matter.

Being one of the people waiting to see if my elected officials were going to follow the SJC's ruling or try to get away with as little as possible it mattered a great deal to me at the time. Waiting on pins and needles to see what would happen while the politicians, Mr. Reilly included, tried to figure out what was politically expedient.

We waited for months for your leadership, Mr. Attorney General, and you let our families and the Commonwealth down, time and time again.

Don't make it worse by trying to say we had your support all along.

massmarrier said...

Yup, he had several chances to approach SSM either as the commonwealth's chief legal dude or as one who supported equality in the way that the SJC eventually did. He showed no leadership and, at least as much as the General Court, he actively ducked the issue.

He has terrific nerve to claim SSM support, after the fact, and then to enable a highly questionable ballot initiative. In addition, his position on the out-of-state marriages and the 1913 laws is absurd. This was another chance for leadership...again, he hid.