Friday, November 10, 2006

SSM, Call the Cleaning Crews

Parents and teachers were fond of saying don't be lazy, follow through. When you don't, it just makes more work and delays the inevitable. Well, the Massachusetts should have damned well learned that lesson by now.

The latest proof came yesterday, when the ConCon recessed until the last day of the legislative session, January 2. As the New York Times recap puts it, "In a flurry of strategic maneuvering, supporters of same-sex marriage managed to persuade enough legislators to vote to recess...(This seems to have) "dealt what appeared to be a fatal blow Thursday to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban (SSM).

The extreme unpleasantness that will, definitely will, follow was avoidable. The elephants are leaving the streets. We need the guys with the brooms and shovels. With a new, active government, we can fix this.

Let us now and belatedly:
  1. Modify existing Massachusetts marriage laws to state clearly that they are gender neutral.
  2. Fine-tune the initiative petition process to return it to its original and noble purpose.
These are long overdue. If you are a voter here, you should tell your legislators to advocate for these.

Trouble from Timidity

This junk is not necessary. Our government here has fostered the divisive and discriminatory efforts by its inaction or worse.

Before the Goodridge decision, the General Court has years to align our marriage laws with our equal-rights ones. They ate their Brigham's sundaes and giggled together instead.

After November 18, 2003, the legislators had six months to show wisdom and guts. If they had done their job, they and the anti-gay, anti-SSM folks would not be able to scream that their lawmaking power had been usurped. Instead, the legislators asked, "What about civil unions?," heard no from the high court and went back to the lunch counters and bars.

At the end of Goodridge, the court ordered:
We declare that barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution. We vacate the summary judgment for the department. We remand this case to the Superior Court for entry of judgment consistent with this opinion. Entry of judgment shall be stayed for 180 days to permit the Legislature to take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion.
The General Court lost whining rights the next June when the deadline passed.

Fortunately, it is not too late to prevent the next batch of ploys by the anti forces. They can hide behind the incoming governor. "Deval made me do it!" can be the new excuse for the most cowardly up on Beacon Street.

Tweak the laws. Let those in the legislature who would strip a class of citizens of existing rights take their best shots from the podium. Let them lose and skulk away to their dreams of theocracy that has never, ever existed in Massachusetts.

Marriage has always been a civil contract here and must remain so.

Initiative Abuse

The other key prophylactic could well show the way for the nation. As well as here, in California and elsewhere, many of the states that permit ballot initiatives have seen them perverted to anti-democratic drives to unfunded mandates and whoring for corporate and political special interests to the detriment of most citizens.

We were the early pioneer in initiative petitions. As succinctly and plainly described in our commonwealth's constitution, Article XLVIII, these were to ensure that the temporary insanity of a legislature could not take away people's rights or force onerous duties on them.

How it slowly contorted into pretending that we run the state by town meeting is a cautionary tale of inaction by both the legislative and executive branch, elsewhere as well as here. This sort of perverted pseudo-populism does not work.

Right, left or just extremely self-interested, it's time to say a resounding, "No!" to the initiative abusers. First, as Deval Patrick said repeatedly in his campaign, the rights of a minority must never be subject to the vote of the majority. We have a representative government, not a mob, to make our laws.

We need to make it plain that others' rights will not be part of a plebiscite and that ballot initiatives that attempt to do this are invalid.

Come January

None of us should imagine that Mass Family Institute and their buddies had not anticipated such a loss as occurred yesterday. Their site puts the call to Gov. Willard Mitt Romney to do something. We suspect they have judicial plans too (they love the courts when it suits them).

It appears there's not much Romney can do in the next two months. The ConCon did not adjourn, so he can't use his power to bring it back in session -- it is still in session. Its recess will end on the last afternoon of the legislative session, still meeting legal requirements. In addition, he almost certainly does not want to continue to draw attention to his association with marriage equality and loving relationships the horror of SSM.

Unfortunately now, the anti forces will continue to scream like winger talk-show hosts. They did not forget the last amendment they lost on legislative maneuvering. They who would strip rights from fellow citizens bellow that their rights to do so are being curtailed -- huh?

We don't envy Patrick this mess. He has the advantage of coming in clean on this. He has promised to repair the damaged underpinnings of our commonwealth.

These two areas are great places to start. They have been distractions and divisions for years upon years.

While those who would harm and hinder homosexuals and their kids have dwindled, they are as insistent as deer flies, and as annoying. The double swat of clear marriage statutes and of delimited initiative procedures are long overdue.

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