Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Big "So What?" on SSM Vote

Although it included a mild surprise, the thrust of today's Supreme Judicial Court ruling on the same-sex marriage suit was the obvious one. The AP and Boston Globe report that there's nothing they can do legally to force the legislature to vote on a ballot initiative in Constitutional Convention.

Traveler's Apology: We're on the road. However, so far there is decent coverage and links on this news at Blue Mass Group.

The surprise is that the unanimous decision included a mention that the combined legislature is constitutionally required to vote on such amendment petitions. This is a strict interpretation of the state constitution's Article 48. Everyone agrees that its spongy wording requires that any final action on a petition must be by vote. The decision includes:
The members of the joint session have a constitutional duty to vote, by the yeas and nays, on the merits of all pending initiative amendments before recessing on January 2, 2007. With respect to legislative action on proposals for constitutional amendments introduced to the General Court by initiative petition, the language of art. 48 is not ambiguous.
That may change future such ConCon actions. However, the decision also noted that there could be no court-imposed legal remedy for inaction.

The suit was theater by our POTUS-envying outgoing governor. We rather doubt that he scored any points in his stagger toward Washington with this one. Instead, it serves to remind potential voters of Willard Mitt Romney's inability to lead in marriage equality for any side.

This was the expected result and likely seals this poison petition's nasty fate. Itty boo, Mitt.

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Mike said...

That "surprise" is the poison pill which all the sudden throws what should be a slam dunk into something that is up in the air. You can bet goodl old Trav will be browbeating legislators with the "oath of office" crap, and if only 9 change their vote on a motion to adjourn, then there's nothing stopping an actual vote (which we will lose) from happening.

The court really took away the fig leaf of "the Constitution is unclear" that a lot of people were using as cover. Now only a forthright expression of civil disobedience can be used as an excuse to avoid a vote, and I don't think enough legislators have the balls to do this.

This sucks. Look forward to 1 1/2 years of millions of dollars of right-wing money being dumped into Massachusetts, Catholic bishops brobeating their parishoners to vote "the right way" and the potential for the worst civil rights defeat our movement has ever known in November of 2008.

And yes, I know polls show we should win if this ever goes to vote, but I have little faith in polls on issues like this.

ALl in all, this sucks. Like I said a few weeks ago, this court is looking for any excuse to hit "undo" on their 2003 decision, and by gratuitously "clarifying" the constitution, they might have finally succeeded.

Ryan said...

I have to say, I don't think this decision was a suprise at all. In fact, I sort of agree with it. The constitution needs to be changed to get rid of the 25% crap - and that's why I'm okay with telling all the process people to 'piss off.' If the process isn't fair, then legislators shouldn't feel compelled to follow it.

If this were a 50% leg, 66% popular vote... then I'd be fine with demanding yea or nea votes on everything... but 25% and 50% is horrendous.

Unknown said...

Too depressing, Mike: this issue must be voted on, and won, for marriage equality to be secure in Massachusetts. Suporters of equality made a tactical mistake, in my humble opinion, by accepting improper procedure: they made it look like they don't care about following the rules. The SJC has now reaffirmed that the constitution requires a vote by the legislature. The representatives should vote -- and vote No.

Mike said...

If the representatives vote, then it is 100% for sure it will be on the ballot in 2008. The pro-bigotry side will easily get the 50 votes it won't get close to a majority, but remember, all it needs is 25%.

Do you think we can really win a public vote of the citizens on this issue? We lost in the "liberal" states of Wisconsin and Oregon, and remember, although Massachusetts is strongly Democratic, there are plenty of old-line conservative Dems, and a powerful church hierarchy....not to mention millions of national right-wing dollars flowing in excited at the chance to reverse gay marriage.

Do you think it is worth risking our rights against such an onslaught merely to follow proper legislative process...especially given that the legislature had done this same thing (bury amendments) many times inthe past...why now, all of the sudden, does everyone demand a vote?

Anonymous said...

'They should vote. If they don't this won't go away.'

Bull crap.

The people who paid to get the signatures spend their free time thinking up ways to stuff gay people back in the closet, literally and figuratively.

So whatever happens with this proposal does NOT mean it is over.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree with you Bob, about a tactical mistake. It's quite clear that civil disobedience has a long history in MA, remember the Boston Tea Party? The conservatives have used procedural votes to kill legislation that they didn't like in the past (think abortion rights). If conservatives take us to the wall on this issue of not having an up or down vote, they will be shooting themselves in the foot when they want to do the same later themselves. In addition, there is little chance that anti-marriage folks will unseat any of those legislators who opposed them. Their only recourse is therefore unavailable to them, so too bad if they don't like our liberal ways, this is Massachusetts, not Virginia. And anything we can do to delay a ballot question is good. Time always seems to work for us and against them. It would be best of course if we did have a ballot question and won, that would shut them up for good, but it is best if that vote were to happen later than '08, since some of those dinosaurs in the Catholic Conspiracy die off every year.

massmarrier said...

Well, if they do vote tomorrow (sorry for the delay in moderating here -- been away from the Net), that won't put this odious amendment on the ballot. It would still have to pass a 2007 ConCon in the identical form.

As it is, the Dark Side surely has its 50 votes this time. It as likely as not would fail in 2007, but might squeak through. The voters tossed several anti-gay lawmakers and others retired.

As it stands, the amendment should lose badly at the 20008 ballot. Poll after poll of both registered and likely voters says hang it up, it's the law of the land.

We should have this puerile sniping for two years. We have meaningful repairs and improvements for the government.

The literal and libertarian let-the-people-vote types should be sent off to their corners to sulk and carp -- by any means. They can be come the we-was-robbed gang instead.

More meaningfully, the legislature needs:
--to clean up the existing marriage laws and regulations to enable Goodridge fully as they should have several years ago
--clarify that civil rights of any group should never be subject plebiscite, even by initiative petition
--examine Article XLVIII. I don't agree that it is as clear requiring a vote as the timid SJC does. That should be very clear, including any consequences.
--examine where the 25% rule in XLVIII is adequate, whether the intent should be to pass through such initiatives or to make them pass a stricter test