Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Amendment That Won't Die...Yet

The small matters -- a primary and then a general election -- curtain that pesky anti-same-sex-marriage amendment. When this year's Constitutional Convention (ConCon) postponed consideration until November 9th, the anti-gay and anti-SSM forces pouted, stomped and howled. Yet they wait.

Meanwhile, Bay Windows has peeked under the curtain. A piece today reports on five legislators who want to defeat the amendment.

In case you're new to this odious effort, we aware:
  • anti-SSM forces got enough signatures to push a constitutional amendment barring SSM, but only going forward
  • to get on the ballot in 2007, it must get a quarter of the ConCon votes (50 legislators from either house)
  • to get on the ballot in 2007, it must get that same minimum at next year's ConCon in the identical form
BW writes that "a group of moderate lawmakers who've been only tangentially involved with the marriage equality battle are playing a much greater role in planning" for the November session. The five BW interviewed ID'ed "three areas that need to be shored up:"
  • A firm head count
  • Lobbying legislators who have not supported SSM
  • Better strategy communication by pro-SSM forces and legislators
Everyone on all sides agrees that a quarter of the General Court is a very low bar. The consensus also seems to be that this amendment would surely lose if put to a vote in a general election. It's that middle year plus of divisiveness and diversion from real issues that many would like to avoid.

To get the 151 anti-amendment votes would require "supportive legislators who have not traditionally been identified with the marriage equality movement yet who have the credibility to persuade the large swath of white, Irish- or Italian-Catholic moderate and conservative male legislators from like-minded districts, need to be enlisted in the effort to defeat the amendment." While that may sound unlikely, we need to consider the pragmatism of legislators. This is a loser amendment, one many lawmakers would like to distance themselves from, without appearing too radical.

Among the related efforts since the July ConCon, says Rep. Mike Festa, have been "advocates and allied legislators held strategy sessions and reassessed their efforts in order to put together a more cohesive plan in the run-up to Nov. 9. Part of that involves expanding the House whip system, which he led along with state Rep. Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge), to bring in players who can better reach out to moderates and conservatives."

Neither pro-SSM nor anti-SSM forces is confident. While that may show how little support the amendment really has, it would still only need 50 votes to stay on the legislative respirator for another year.

A lot of legislators would like to get beyond this whole issue and stop this amendment. Are there 151 of them?

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