Monday, April 09, 2007

Massachusetts Rolls Over

A deep irony relating to our nefarious 1913 out-of-state marriage statutes lies in the etiquette issue. New Englanders and particularly Bostonians take great pride in claims of being America's intellectuals. Understandably though, they don't brag about how well mannered they are. Instead, nationwide and even worldwide, we are known for being brusque and for expecting visitors to adapt to us. Thank you very much and do it right now.

It is in this one area -- General Laws Chapter 207, Sections 11, 12, 13 and 50 -- that we humiliate ourselves. We roll on our back like a dog exposing its belly. Please, please, let us be the only state to accommodate whatever marriage laws you have. Pay no attention to our legal marriages. We humbly beseech you for approval.

Let us be plain about this. We are the only state playing this game. The others tell us our marriages they wouldn't have performed are worth less than dirt. We thank them.

Worcester's Telegram had a nice recap yesterday on the appeasers' arguments for keeping these laws. It's worth reading for a chuckle or three.

First of all, unless you are anti-gay, anti-marriage equality or both, there is no reason to offer any defense of these laws. They are entirely one-sided and have always been such. If other states recognize our other civil laws and procedures, down to driving licenses, they need to deal with the rest of them, as we do with theirs.

Beyond marriage, there are others that may be parallel. For instance, states have different regulations about physicians or attorneys or realtors who can practice there. That's different, but the same. It shows how states can create and enforce their own laws and regulations, sometimes honoring another states for comity's sake and other times demanding adherence to local standards.

However, marriage is generally the exception. Until then President Bill Clinton's right-wing pandering support for the the Defense of Marriage Act, state governments had no expectation that they could actively discriminate against homosexuals in marriage. Not only had it not arisen before Vermont's civil unions and our Goodridge decision, but denying comity in marriage among states had only been meaningful when it was legal to forbid interracial marriages in some states.

In 2007, it is outrageous that we alone would become the appeasers. Suddenly, then Gov. Willard Romney and then AG Tom Reilly held that Massachusetts had to shield other states from legal challenges to their marriage laws, to statutes that forbade homosexual marriages.

Yet, from the beginning of this nation, we have advanced often through court challenges and legal interpretations. It is never a continuous climb to egalitarianism and equality, but we do ascend slowly and steadily, albeit with switchbacks.

Not only is it not Massachusetts' job to be the passive and obedient child with bowed head trying not to offend 40 some sibling states. The beach is broad and the tide continues to lap. With many thousands of married same-sex couples legally united here, how is it that we are to protect those delicate Virginia, South Carolina and Wyoming courts from the terror of having to discuss their discriminatory and defensive marriage laws and amendments?

We need to get real about this. Comity rides respect. We honor your laws; you honor our laws; we all get along.

It is not our duty to kowtow to the bigots. When legally married Massachusetts couples move to their states, they may have to deal with it. Perhaps their laws and amendments rejecting those marriages will withstand scrutiny and court challenges. Perhaps they won't.

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Tom Lang said...

Great Post!

One of the biggest problems with the LGBT Lobby and those who beleive in Equal Rights for LGBT is that we tend to over analyze the political landscape. Of course it is always good to know who the players are and what games they are playing, however this is a Civil and Equal Rights Issue and should/must be treated as such.

The hesitation and criticism from our side and even in such places as BlueMassGroup of the repeal of the 1913 Law speaks to fear and those not fully embracing that the equal marriage isssue is an equal rights issue. If our leadership, leges, and supporters truly understood this, all the flood gates would be allowed to open.

As a gay man (and founder of KnowThyNeighbor), I am tired of hearing that I shouldn't talk to people who would take my equality away from me, that I need to step lightly at the statehouse, and that I should accept civil unions now and keep my mouth shut. And in the case of the 1913 Law Repeal that we should not be asking for this now, which quite frankly is an embarassing law on so many levels, because the Leges will support its repeal "to prove that they are not 'anti-gay'" and use their support to justify their support of letting the people vote on the anti-equality anti-ss- marriage amendment.

If our Legislatures are telling our lobbyists that this is what they plan to do, then we need to know who they are NOW, so we can publicly call them out on this cowardly move and make sure that their constituents know (on a daily basis) that they are not worthy of representing the people.

Anonymous said...

Opponents to the repeal of the 1913 laws like to imply that this will be letting the marriage cat out of the bag - that people will marry in MA and move to other states and demand recognition. Well I've got news for these blinkered idiots: people have been doing that with marriages enacted in Canada and the Netherlands ever since they were available in those places. Yes, it would increase the flow of such people. But it is not a legit arguement to pretent that MA is "saving" the rest of the counrty from this loving scourge by keeping the 1913 laws in place. The 1913 laws have not contained marriage equality.