Thursday, November 09, 2006

Anti-SSM Amendment Winged and Bleeding

At today's reconvened Constitutional Convention today in Boston, marriage-equality got a controversial boost. After killing the old legislative SSM repeal-style amendment, the ConCon voted to recess until January 2.

This likely effectively kills the second amendment, the one that has a slight chance of appearing on the 2008 election ballots. With the new legislature (far fewer anti-gay legislators) and governor, a 2007 ConCon after January is not likely to have the 50 votes necessary. In addition, the calendar could well run out for the current ConCon and not provide time to meet the deadline for ballot placement.

In addition, present Gov. Mitt Romney cannot call the ConCon back into session. It is nearly recessed, not adjourned, so technically it is still in session.

The vote to recess was 109 to 87 -- 101 being necessary.

Blogger Apology: A long-scheduled and unavoidable dinner meeting was tonight. I had to leave the WGBX broadcast at 5 p.m. and got home at nearly 9:30. My knowledge came from pushing the radio on the way until I got a right-wing talk show host ranting about the gutless legislators and saying they were approving all manner of sexual deviance because they had no respect for any law. Wowzers.

Before I Left

Items 19 and 20 were the two forms of anti-SSM amendment. The former was orginally the nefarious pair of Goguen and Travis effort to outlaw SSM and anything like it. The latter was the current ballot initiative to stop SSM going forward, but leave the 8,500-plus ones intact and not prevent civil unions.

Item 19 was up for its third reading. It would simply define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Sen. Edward M. Augustus Jr. (D-Worcester) said he rose in strong opposition. "It is time to move on," he said, alluding to Deval Patrick's election two days ago. This is "a state built on hope not on fear."

He noted that those who predicted chaos from SSM were clearly wrong. The sky did not fall and "instead we saw how important marriage really is." He added that polls show that more than 60% of the voters favor marriage equality. He stated,"Massachusetts has always been the conscience of the nation. That is our role."

Rep. George Peterson (R-Grafton) asked whether voting on 19 would preclude voting on 20. Senate President Robert Travaglini said it did not. Peterson stopped short of directly asking if they would vote on 20.

Rep. Thomas J. O'Brien (D-Kingston) tried to add gravitas to the moment with a call for "one choice" -- stand up and support same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and equality for all." He said that he respected the views of those who do not agree with SSM. However, he called for each to ask "what do I believe to the core of my being." Evaluate both personal and civic history. "If however like me...(come to believe) we should have equality in this state, whether it is question 19 or question 20, I ask you vote no."

He said it has been frustrating for the past several years to hear the phrase, "Let the people vote on this issue." The responsibility for voting rests in the legislature, as representative government.

Rep. Philip Travis (D-Rehoboth) said he will vote against his amendment, which he offered as a bill before the Goodridge decision. Following that decision, this amendment would be illegal. He also scolded (without using his name) Sen. Jarrett Barrios for introducing 19 at all, saying this was a "deception." He whined at length, predicting a recess before a vote on 20.

Barrios spoke next, starting, "Let's not try to put the shine on the sneaker." He noted that the bill actually was filed a year after Goodridge. He set up for using a procedural vote to block either 19 or 20. "What let the people vote will mean...we will lose the over 400 rights and responsibilities for us and our children."

Rep. Marie Parente (D-Milford), probably the staunchest anti-gay and anti-SSM legislator, was recently defeated in the primary. She figured that the 170,000+ raw signatures on the item 20 drive of an initiative petition required a plebiscite. "All politics is personal," she said, calling it the Parente version of the Tip O'Neill slogan. She even threatened her peers with voter reaction if they did not advance the amendment to the election.

Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) said that it was not the legislature's jot to just pass through initiatives for vote, but to exercise independent judgment.

The other vehement anti-SSM Rep. -- Emile Goguen (D-Fitchburg) said he wasn't a homophobe and to vote your conscience.

Parliamentary Playing

Massachusetts has a history of legislative games. Those don't suit the very literal well. The anti-SSM folk had their best shot, with just enough regressive legislators, a do-nothing attorney general, a skittish Supreme Judicial court fearful after the Goodridge decision, and a ballot-initiative process that was tantalizingly close to the two steps that would put this odious amendment on the ballot.

They may love twisting and abusing the constitution and the initiative process, so long as it seems to help them. Today though, they got out-literal-ed. The legislative leaders wanted to be free of this poison amendment and went to the procedure book to do just that.

Let the Noise Begin

Today's maneuvering certainly is not heroic. Yet, the entire process on this amendment has been one borderline or illegal move after another by the anti-SSM side.

It is a shame in a sense that they will wail and cry foul for the next two months. After they lose in January, they surely will carry on like kindergarteners who dropped their ice cream cones.

To look it from their perspective, you'd have to say that if their case was strong, it will carry the day in January as well as today. At least, that's the sort of thing they have been telling pro-marriage-equality people at every turn.

Well, it isn't that strong and it was almost certain to lose at next year's ConCon anyway. The good news now is that the threats and screaming will only be at a fever and din for two months, not two years. We might get some meaningful legislative and executive business done instead of coddling these plug nasties.

Remind us when we complain in the coming months about the bellowing, remind us that it is short term this time.

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Anonymous said...

The nerve of you, to eat!

I would have been highly disappointed if Marie Parente didn't give her usual heartwarming speech. I so love a good cartoon before the big show.

The VOM amendment didn't deserve the dignity of a vote, seeing as the signatures that created it were fraudulent by the thousands. It is only fitting that an initiative based on lies and deception gets bopped with a legislative backhand. I for one am happy with the outcome. Smart work by all. I won't reast easily, though, until Jan 3rd.

massmarrier said...

LMAO, Laurel. Yes, indeedy, Marie was a hoot. It is odd that she takes such pride in being, what did she say, 300 feet to the right of Ghengis Khan?

Travis though was the cautionary tale. He used every hater's cliché to try to justify his actions and intent.

Bye bye, Marie, Phil and Emile.