Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Listen Up, Deval: 2

We won. Now we have earned the hard, harder and hardest legislative climbs.

Even under assaults from the deceitful nasties on the anti-gay/anti-same-sex-marriage side, the good guys played nice...all the way through the June ConCon victory. While a few folk like KnowThyNeighbor were candid about evil doings, the pro-equality side showed amazing restraint.

Even advocates like MassEquality and interested observers like BayWindows bought into the first-things-first argument. The meme was that legislators and voters would be befuddled and maybe negative if the effort to defeat the amendment to halt SSM here included calls to fix underlying existing bad and malicious legislation.

Being an impatient and sometimes self-righteous sort (I loved the Lou Grant show), I called for such fundamental reforms during and after the 2006 general election.

Let's get back to business. Enough basking in the June victory. We have three legislative mountains to climb. We have a governor, lieutenant governor, house speaker and senate president who have records of supporting equal rights. They had to fight their reactive battle. Now it's time to pay some progressive dues.

Our mountains come in three sizes and difficulty factors. Let's see some action on:
  • The foothill. We have two disgraceful laws on the books that should be easy pickings with a legislature that went over 75% to defeat that amendment. Particularly Chapter 207, Sections 11 and 12 are those shameful 1913 laws that forbid out-of-state couples from marrying here if their home states wouldn't recognize the law. These statues are irrational, tainted with racism and now hatred of homosexuals. They are an affront to our proclaimed love of liberty and equality here. They also insult all logic by pretending that every married same-sex couple here will remain Massachusetts residents forever. This climb should be quick and easy. This should be a one-day debate and a single vote in each house. There's no excuse not to knock this out now.
  • The moderate grade. A steeper climb, but still an obvious goal is aligning the rest of Chapter 207 with the reality of SSM. At the end of an anti-SSM senate president's term and into a gormless and gutless one's, we had the Goodridge decision saying forbidding equal marriage violated our laws and constitution. The SJC ordered the legislature to fix that. Since, the anti-marriage-equality folk are wont to point out that the legislature hasn't changed the stray laws and regulations that use man/woman wording exclusively. The high court made it plain what's legal and what would permit challenges. This hill is tougher and gives the theocratic and anti-gay types the chance to rail about legislating what they say is immorality instead of freedom. The result should be clear victories in tweaking the laws, but the debate would be longer and less pleasant.
  • The big push. Off in the distance is Mount Initiative. We dearly pride ourselves on being in the half of the nation that has citizen ballot initiatives to change laws and put constitutional amendments on the ballot. That will not and should not change, but their forms and looseness have been so abused that we have to admit that mean-spirited and hateful groups have forced limits on all of us. We need only to look to California to see the future of initiatives that cripple a state financially and in freedoms. Actually small refinements, such as prohibiting amendments that would strip existing rights from any minority, would likely solve the current issues. Although we already have a limit that forbids trying to overturn a court decision, our last governor and attorney general somehow weasel-worded out of that stricture last time. May we have learned our lesson. This is the toughest climb with the greatest chances to stumble. Expect accusations of autocracy, of stealing the right of the people for redress. Instead, the reality is that those who force these repairs would take rights from others, would unconstitutionally insert their private religion into law, and would try to turn the progressive right to overturn bad legislation into a tool for discrimination. This climb is the hard one, but the one that will provide the long-term benefit of showing the rest of the nation that we won't be held back or taken captive by those who would abuse the process for nefarious ends. This debate could be many months and dozens of hearings before long debates. It will be worth it to get it right.

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Anonymous said...

This is my first foray into comment-land after a solid six month of reading your blog. Great job, by the way, I love your insight into these matters.

I wanted to get your take on the strategy some have advocated which would hold off on repealing the 1913 laws until after the 2008 elections. I won't get into the major arguments just now, but I can see the sense they make and was wondering what you think.

massmarrier said...

No, many times over...

The time is more than ripe for progressives to proclaim their intent. Even the most recent Pew study, which I'll detail here shortly, supports that DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) are out of tune. Progressives don't have to align with the mainstream, the majority came to them. They want positive changes. They want equality. They want to share opportunity.

My position is that with such as the 1913 laws playing the timid game of not upsetting anyone is about as effective as being a closeted gay today.

Tossing out irrational and discriminatory legislation is not revolutionary. Failure to do so is a disgrace and no service to the public.

Anonymous said...

Is MA business-friendly or not? I keep emphasizing an overlooked angle on the 1913 laws issue, and that is that these laws block business opportunity in MA. Each and every s-s couple that goes to Canada or other foreign port to marry are NOT dropping their dollars in MA. Willard Romney likes to opine that MA would become the Las Vegas of the marriage world should the 1913 laws be repealed. I say, excellent! Bring in the cash! Are our leaders FOR small business in MA, or AGAINST it? When you consider how much money is spent on the average wedding, keeping the 1913 laws on the books is criminal and, well, just plain dumb.

Anonymous said...

MM, the most sympathetic argument for repeal of the 1913 law is that it needlessly prevents the marriages of people who live just outside the state boundaries but commute to work in Massachusetts or have other significant interactions with the state, its residents, or its corporations. Even if their home states won't recognize their marriages, there is no reason for Massachusetts to make it so that Massachusetts itself, as well as its own residents and corporations, cannot recognize these people as validly married. For instance, there is no reason why someone living across the border in New Hampshire but working in Boston should be denied the ability to get married in Massachusetts if her employer will grant health insurance benefits only to married couples.