Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bag of Snakes for the New Governor

Let's assume for the moment that Bay Staters are not totally without sense, and that they elect Deval Patrick or at least Chris Gabrieli governor. Whither goeth the anti-gay/anti-same-sex-marriage amendment drive?

We have anticipated this from the beginning and have never taken our eye off it. You can search this blog for detail and opinion. The current state, however, is that this odious effort to strip existing civil rights from our gay citizens comes for discussion two days after the November general election.

The new governor is likely to be a key player here even before he takes office. "The bully pulpit role is very significant, but just as important is the role they play in helping us garner votes within the Legislature on this issue and others," as the Globe quotes Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus Co-Chair Arline Isaacson.

The article comes with a mealy-mouth chart of issues, but its body on the amendment drive is solid. It notes that the new governor will have a key leadership role in:
  • Defining the issue and how the General Court should vote on whether to let the amendment proceed.
  • Whether to seek to recall the pair of 1913 laws passed to prevent interracial marriage for out-of-state couples where that would be illegal at home. Of course, Governor Romney and Attorney General Reilly hauled these out to stymie and slow down homosexual couples marrying here.
The passive-aggressive actions by our governor and AG, and the inert General Court, have gotten us to where we are. While the amendment would have to pass in identical form next year at a constitutional convention (ConCon) to get on the 2007 general election ballot, it would have virtually no chance of approval by voters. At each ConCon, it only needs 25% (50) of the combined General Court to advance. While probably 140 to 160 legislators oppose the amendment and many of the remainder wishes it would go away, some DINOs and some from very conservative districts don't seem to have the nerve to get on with life.

It is possible that fewer than the required 50 would support the amendment in November. Everyone except the anti-gay forces, including the Massachusetts Family Institute and the local Roman Catholic hierarchy, would be happy for that.

Of course, if this dreadful carcass of an amendment hangs around for another year, much more time, money, effort and emotion better devoted to real issues will be wasted. It would fall to the new governor to show some guts and straighten out those who claim this is about democracy and is not a civil-rights issue. Patrick would surely do that. Gabrieli might, or he might at least bore people into submission eventually.

The two biggies that the Globe did not cover and may not understand are that the governor must:
  1. Set the ballot-initiative process back on track
  2. Rouse a leaderless General Court to action
The initiative process started in a few states as a remedy for impassioned laws made in confusion or with malice. The idea is fair enough and democracy at its best. Unfortunately, here, in California and elsewhere in the half of the states that have such provisions, narrow corporate and political groups have hijacked the process and daily abuse it.

A clearheaded, courageous governor can stop that by mandating a return to the original purpose. Our next governor must lead a fine-tuning of our process. Other states foundering in seas of hateful laws and crippling limits on social progress can follow our example -- as they did when we started this with the best of intentions.

Harder will be putting live coals in the back pockets of House Speaker Sal Dimasi and Senate President Robert (Don't Call Me Bobby) Travaglini. their inaction and inertia have let us slip economically, socially and politically. In the same-sex-marriage area alone, they had over two years to clarify the law before the Supreme Judicial Court ruled the boys snoozed. Likewise, after the SJC decision, the guys had orders to enable SSM or its equivalent and they did not. Neither the amendment nor its related hoo-hah would have happened if the pair's hats were as full as their chairs.

There has been no leadership from the governor's office nor from the titular legislative heads for nearly 16 years. It will be far easier to bring in one strong governor than to provide the backbone lacking in the legislators.

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Anonymous said...

just a clarification: dimasi wasn't house leader while goodridge was being decided, was he? i dont know how much he did or didnt push for legislative action during those two years, but whetever he did i think he did as a regular rep. finneran was speaker. but your point is still valid. senator havern famously had civil union legislation quashed for years. the legis jus wouldnt act.

hail mary! yes! we need to reform the initiative process! starting with petition sheet format changes that make slights of hand lots harder, and instituting sig-gatherer accountability. by all rights, this nasty anti-ssm amendment shouldnt even be entertained, as sooo many sigs were obtained unethically (sad that it isnt illegal to lie to get sigs...). (and isnt the guy who certified this pile of deception running for something this nov?)

a big problem w/initiqtives here in WA is not sig fraud, but time and again laws are passed this way which turn out to be unconstitutional. should there be some judicial review built into the inititive process?

massmarrier said...

We have had many years of timorous "leaders" in both houses here. The allegation that there is some monolithic ultra-left club of free spenders on extremes is absurd. Dimasi and Travaglini are only the two latest do-nothing president and speaker.

To your last point, that's key. Also, in this case, our attorney general (and now gubernatorial candidate) permitted a ballot initiative to go ahead even though it clearly violated our law against allowing an initiative to overturn a judicial decision.

We need both the executive and legislative branches to curtail the kinds of abuse we see from Eyman in your area and our local clowns.

Anonymous said...

Do any of you know what you are talking about??? Then Majority Leader Sal DiMasi urged Finneran to pass some sort of DP legislation. He was one of the first high ranking House Members to come out and support Gay Marriage. Just this year he stated publicly that he would block any move by the Governor or CHurch to stop gay adoptions.
Give me a break!! Why attack one of gay marriages most powerful supporters?

massmarrier said...

We are in a mess because of do-nothing legislative leaders. The SSM fiasco is an excellent case in point. The court mandated enabling equal marriage and the big guys have been unable or unwilling (same thing in this case) to carry it off. It looks like a failure of will to me.