Sunday, June 17, 2007

Marriage Battle Lessons

In my pedantry, I'm fond of asking my three guys, "What can we learn from this?" I hate to glide over possible lessons from important events.

This week's delightful and surprising victory in keeping same-sex marriage in Massachusetts is a case to consider. Many are the lessons for civil-rights and other political and social activists, as well as our politicians.

Coming from print media years ago, I have carried over some of the lingo, including post mortem for such an analysis. A friend from my professional society objects to the connotations. Taryn says, "Nobody died here. What we need to come away with are lessons learned."

For the past couple of years on this blog, I have suggested and specified laws that should change. This affects ballot initiatives as well as marriage. Expect me to revisit and expand on those here and in our Left Ahead! podcasts. Meanwhile, I am very pleased to see that some are already calling attention to those dreadful 1913 antimiscegenation laws that then Gov. Willard Mitt Romney and then AG Tom Reilly used to keep out-of-state same-sex couples from wedding here.

Today, I promise not to detail laws. Instead, let's consider some broad lessons learned.
  • Have a great slogan. As Mark Snyder wrote a long time ago at Queer Today, "The slogan, 'let the people vote,' regardless of how disingenuous and cynical it is, is actually powerful and, at least according to several people on our side, is swaying many legislators." In the end, MassEquality came up with the only-okay "It's Wrong to Vote on Rights," but that came late and was not as punchy. It worked in the end only because both reason and emotion were behind it, backed with extremely active marriage-equality lobbying from ordinary citizens.
  • Feet on the street and hand on the phone. Over at BMG, Charley nailed up some impacts of the campaign and vote to defeat the amendment. The most salient is that this was a great model of civic engagement, as just mentioned. The anti-equality side sounds like bitter baseball fans after a World Series loss. Somehow the other side cheated, bribed the legislators or something, for sure, man. Instead, it was the faces across the desk and the voices on the phone.
  • Leaders must lead. Both the executive and legislative branches here have been afraid to act for decades. This illegal, dishonorable and fraud-ridden initiative would never have gotten to the State House at all if we had enacted marriage equality or its asthenic sibling civil unions long before Goodridge. One anti-gay Senate President followed by a gormless and gutless one did not enable full marriage equality throughout the legal system as mandated. Don't even start on Reilly. Leaders must be ahead of the public, not hiding being the lowest common denominator among us.
  • Processes often evolve. Variables from new technologies to new players to outside laws and events mean we should constantly re-examine how we make and enforce laws. Future posts will deal more with changes to the initiative process, to marriage laws, and other unpleasant aspects of commonwealth processes uncovered in this three-year struggle.

Double Serving of Crow

You don't have to look very deeply in this blog to read indignant attacks on new Senate President Therese Murray and Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi. She was unproven and outwardly timid; he had a long history of equality support, while seeming to have had a failure of will on this issue.

They both and each came through, matching Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray in the crucial private lobbying. The legislative leaders proved my doubts unfounded. They did the right thing, many times over.

What a great state to live in!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I am just now learning to exhale. I feel like I had been holding my breath for so long over this issue.

What does it feel like to not worry about the Kris Mean-o and his friends, lurking in the bushes, saying mean and nasty things about my family?

Thank you. For providing a place of sanity, for your analysis, for your clarity. For your steadfastness to this issue.

Maybe we'll find ourselves on the same bike ride someday, and I'll get to thank you in person.