Friday, January 26, 2007

Fighting Anti-Equality Folk in Boston

Representative democracy is so demanding -- on the legislators. Far too often for their comfort level, they must make recorded votes on big issues. How much sweeter it is to do a favor for the home district and proclaim, "Ain't I grand!"

On marriage equality, all sides are taking names this year. Maybe a dozen Massachusetts legislators have to make a decision that they, and we, have to live with, and they will undoubtedly have to explain repeatedly.

So, half the remaining eggs are in the Constitutional Convention (ConCon) basket this year. The rest remain in the possible future of a 2008 general election with this dreadful discriminatory amendment on the ballot.

That repeated polls show voters here would soundly reject this amendment seems far less significant than keeping it off the ballot. I am strongly opposed to ballot initiatives that would put such civil rights to a plebiscite, regardless of those addicted to such abuses.

Leading the campaign to resolve this in the ConCon is MassEquality, with a sizable supporting case, secular and religious. The forces who would strip state homosexual couples of their now established right to wed have VoteOnMarriage at the fore with strong support from the good solider, Archbishop Sean O'Malley.

The famous and now infamous Article XLVIII of our state constitution surely did not consider that citizens would try to use the document to strip freedoms from any group. Yet until we tweak the sparse wording (which of course would require a plebiscite itself), we play the cards on the table.

That includes 62 legislators of the combined 200 who voted to advance the amendment. The marriage-equality folk, with our help, need to reduce that to 49 or fewer to win an up-or-down vote. They have a few gimme votes because four anti-equality lawmakers lost and a couple retired, effective with the new administration this month.

So what's a lobbyist or legislator to do?

Well, as standard bearer, MassEquality is visible and loud. It has also held a series of public meetings where some legislators and Campaign Director Marc Solomon said what they were planning and asked for public contributions to the process.

Online resources:
Getting nine to 15 lawmakers to switch is Solomon's aim. Such cagey players as Senate President Bobby Travaglini are almost certain to facilitate the amendment's defeat -- either by vote or procedure -- if they know the votes to do so are lined up. That's cynical, unfortunate and the way this game is played.

Pro-equality Rep. Alice Wolf told one of the meetings getting the necessary support for the ConCon was possible, but difficult. As she said, ""We can win in the Legislature...Will we win? I do not know, but it will take work."

That work must include:
  • Grass tops -- people with personal access to difficult-to-convince or waffling legislators -- persuasion. As Solomon put it, "Someone who knows him, a personal friend. Or someone he has to listen to, like a business leader in a legislator's district who has a kid who is gay."
  • District politics. Going to your legislators, thanking the pro-equality ones and asking for help from the others, works where going beyond may not. For that, ask someone you know who lives in the district.
  • Using the December Supreme Judicial Court comment on voting on initiatives in ConCon. Don't be shy about telling your legislator that the ConCon killed the health care on procedurally but not did not do the same for the anti-marriage-equality one.
  • Broader based, more subtle efforts. There may not be time for the ConCon push to have local small group discussions that worked so well in winning the Maine gay-rights fight. Speaking with religious groups and neighbors is a great mid-term and long-term strategy, but should come after calling, visiting or writing legislators.
The strategy of winning over the anti-gay forces appeared a few times. That seems to me to be a quixotic effort, as dug-in as they are. The Jacobs article cited this as:
Another audience member said he felt MassEquality was not doing enough to reach out to religious conservative opponents of same-sex marriage to try to dialogue with them and change their minds. Solomon said that while dialogue is important, from a purely strategic point of view it made more sense to devote resources towards reaching people who support same-sex marriage but who have not been active in the movement to defeat the amendment. He said he expects there will always be a solid group of people who oppose same-sex marriage.

“Those 30 percent can go and have a party as far as I’m concerned as long as the 70 percent are taking action,” said Solomon.
Just so, the anti-equality types have promised repeatedly that if they lost here or there, they'd go away. They haven't and they won't.

I have no doubt that after they lose this amendment, they will go to their next phase and attack, which surely is already planned. Those who would appease them with plebiscites and discussions, will hear and likely regret the continuing wails, threats and invective. Even as a dwindling party, their self-righteous complaints diminish in volume but not frequency.

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