Friday, November 10, 2006

Setting the Record Straight

No, Massachusetts, the legislature isn't refusing to vote on gay marriage as pundits, reporters and rabid rightwingers alike would have people believe. The truth is the state legislature is employing the rules at hand. The truth is the state legislature voted yesterday, just not the vote Team Homophobia wanted.

The media has an amazing ability to fall for right wing talking points time after time again. "We just want an up or down vote," President Bush would say. Never mind the fact that parliamentary procedures are there for a reason. Never mind the fact that laws aren't supposed to be easy to pass (lest we all want to live in a Gestapo at the whims of James Dobson?). Rhetorical prose makes right, especially when the right - wing, that is - is behind it.

Isn't it amazing how rhetoric influences policy? Get a simple, catchy slogan or chant - "let the people vote" - and suddenly the most heinous and vicious policies seemingly deserve the time of day. No, ladies and gentlemen, they don't. To avoid horrible policies is exactly why parliamentary procedures exist. If they didn't exist, just imagine what terrifying propositions would have reached the ballots of the uneducated voter? Just imagine what nightmarish policies would have left state-house committees?

Alexis de Toqueville wrote a poignant book in the early 19th century - it was called "Democracy in America." In the book, de Toqueville coined a phrase that almost everyone has heard of at some point or another: "the tyranny of the majority." Ironically, Alexis de Toqueville didn't perceive it as a huge threat - just something to be ever vigilant about. Perhaps parliamentary procedure has something to do with it? Otherwise, just look at who could be locked up for being of color, gay or "unAmerican" if bills were easy to pass. So when the next pundit, Globe story or rabid right winger spouts on about how the legislature should vote, tell them it already did - and the stupid bill died the same horrible death that tens of thousands of other stupid bills have before it. Amen.


Mike in Medford said...

Thanks for blogging, Ryan. I enjoy your posts and admire the work you and other bloggers do. Anyway, I was hoping you could point me to a link that shows how the legislators voted yesterday. I'm curious about my Medford rep. and can't find any information. Thanks!

Mass Marrier said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mass Marrier said...

don't see it online in Globe or Herald. It is on B6 in the Globe finger-smudging edition.

Paul Donato voted not to recess.

Mass Marrier said...

Actually it is there, if you search by its headline.

Ryan Adams said...

Thanks, Mike.

kai said...

Procedural rules are there not to thwart the process, but to enable it. Just because you can misuse them doesnt mean you should.

Anonymous said...

Who says it's misusing the process to try and prevent a small group of fanatics from destroying the basis of our Constitution? We've been protecting equality from the very beginning. Amending a great document to include hate shouldn't be on the agenda.

Ryan Adams said...

The fact is our founding fathers embued our government with certain parliamentary procedures. Those procedures were meant to be used. The ballot initiative process in Massachusetts is already inordinately easy - far too easy for us to be passing constitutional amendments of any kind. The process should mirror the national syste, which requires 2/3rds of the vote. Then maybe we wouldn't need parliamentary procedures to protect individual rights.

Anonymous said...

It's as much of a "procedural rule" that the vast, vast majority of the legislature, 3/4 in fact, can vote against a measure and yet the will of only 25% will prevail. We're talking about our constitution, we're talking about civil rights that have already been affirmed, that's not good enough.

If you don't have a problem with that, then you're being extremely selective in how you think it's proper to apply precedural rules and what you consider misuse, thwarting (like, say thwarting the will of about 75% of both the public and the legislature), and enabling.

kai said...

I agree that it is far too easy to amend the Constitution, but those are the rules of the game. If you start to lose you basetball to you pick up your ball and, like Cartman, just say: Screw you guys, I'm going home.

When citizens collect enough signatures (and 170,000 is WAY more than enough) then our Constitution says only 25% of the legislature need approve it. Thats not an underhanded parlimentary procedure, thats Constitutional law.

If you dont like that, you are free to try and change it by, say, collecting signatures and sending it to the ConCon. Of course, there is no garuntee they will vote on it...

Ryan Adams said...

"I agree that it is far too easy to amend the Constitution, but those are the rules of the game."

My point exactly! The legislature played by the rules. You may not like the result of those rules, but if you have problem with them take it up with your state legislative reps.

You argument is so fundamentally flawed, blind and hypocritical I don't even know where to begin. It's okay to follow some rules (the 25%), but when the legislature uses others (parliamentary procedures) that's not okay? You fail at logic.

Anonymous said...

Just in case people have forgotten, Peter Porcupine is a member of MassResistance. Here's part of a rant on the ConCon from his blog:

So, wave and smile, Rep. Turner. If your shenanigans are successful, the opponents will just go out and get the thousands of signatures again. Really, it’s getting easier each time they do – this is the third time. And that 56% willing to vote against a ban on gay marriage erodes a little more with every lie you tell us.

Ryan Adams said...

That's patently false. Gay marriage has become more favorable, not less.

Anonymous said...

"I agree that it is far too easy to amend the Constitution, but those are the rules of the game."

Yep, those are the "rules of the game." Rules, kai. Rules. Just like, oh yeah, say, parlimentary procedures. Those are the rules, too. So one side tries an undemocratic but legal maneuver, the other responds by using the equally legal tools at their disposal. There's nothing shady or underhanded about it. IT'S FREAKING PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE. Ancient rules put in place to govern the function of legislative bodies and protect the legislators' rights. Everybody is entitled to use them. It's always been an integral part of the political and legislative process.

Your argument is hilarious. It's underhanded to use rules except when it's freaking awesome. Rules suck except when they rock. If I like it its a principle, otherwise it's an underhanded rule.

Maybe we should collect signatures so we can vote on whether you're allowed to use flawed logic, or indeed allowed to say anything at all, whether you're allowed to marry or life where you want or walk around freely. Or not, because you are entitled to certain fundamental rights and liberties that we have no right to abridge by majority vote.

Anonymous said...


for the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, the nation's highest court, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, where the right of adults to marry by their own choice in direct opposition to legal restrictions imposed artificially and arbitrarily by busybodies was upheld.

The decision rejects outlawing a marriage without any rational basis except "arbitrary and invidious discrimination" and the desire of others to interfere in their neighbors' personal liberties.

"The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men"

"Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

Sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

Give me a break. Do you really think the bigots wo are obsessed with stripping our civil rights would refuse to use common, legitimate, legal means to get what they want?

Sure. And if the SJC had declared marriage equality unconstitutional in perpetuity, they'd still be whining about "judicial activism" and collecting signature so "the people can vote," right? Sure.

I don't see any reason why a legislator shouldn't use every rule and tool at his or her disposal to fight for the rights of their constituents to not be declared second class citizens whose rights can be taken away on a whim.

This isn't Calvinball, it's politics. They didn't make up new rules, they used prexisting procedures that everyone knew were in place. It's not their fault that the bigots have been outmanevered.

If you don't like that, you are free to try and develop a whole new system of parlimentary governance.
Just don't be surprised if no one prefers your verson of Calvinball to the familiar procedures that have been in place and dealt with for a long, long time.

Anonymous said...


Peter Porcupine's argument is pretty tenuous. At the core, it seems to be "don't get uppity or the people will strike you down."

Here's an excerpt from Peter's July 12 blog entry:

It does not matter if you support or deride gay marriage. It is a proper subject for a vote, and has been voted on in over 30 other states. Porcupine is of the opinion that the gay marriage amendment will be defeated by the electorate, but by a much narrower margin that it would have been had people been allowed to vote on it in 2001. After all, those companies who offered domestic partnership benefits have begn to cancel them, on the grounds that now everybody can get married, and so marriage is a prerequisite for dometic partnership. He cannot say the same margin will prevail if the vote is again denied by the Legislature. People are angry that their initiative petitions have been voided or changed - the tax rollback, clean elections, a variety of proposals from all sides of the spectrum. There is a chance they will vote their anger instead of their conscience.

Despite his ramblings about moderation, Peter is just a more pompous version of your garden variety 'phobe. He's one of those people who feels "marriage" is sacred to heterosexuals.

Here he is in MassResistancewatch, countering the "if marrage is for procreation only, what does it mean to get married at 60" argument:

At Friday, August 04, 2006 3:25:27 PM, Peter Porcupine said…

Ah, but you have to remember the story of Sarah in the Bible, who had a baby at age 80! After a lifetime of infertiltiy - and no drugs!

I just wish the Legislature trusted the electorate enough to allow them to vote - after all, those are the folks that put them there.

And here he is reacting to the "news" that Deval and Chris Gabrieli participated in the Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial GLBT Forum at Harvard:

I await my invitation to the heterosexual debate.

Posted by: Peter Porcupine at September 14, 2006 10:32 AM

And here he is lamenting the days when he didn't even have to know "sodomites" existed. Of course, that was when he was still writing using the "voice" of the real Peter Porcupine. These days, he's openly a Republican flack:

I freely admit that I come from a time when gay meant cheerful. Sodomites, as we called them then, certainly existed and many were socially received – but they were expected to be discreet in their relationships, as were heterosexuals, also known as normal men. Only a cad would speak of carnal relations with his wedded wife, but only a beast would speak openly about bedding a person who was not.

Ryan Adams said...

Wow, that's pretty revealing.

It's good to know I'd be accepted to social events as long as I shut up and stay in the corner...

Anonymous said...

Kinda scary that "Peter" is a guest blogger for BMG. None of those guys are particularly fond of MassResistance or Republican flacks.

Googling "peter porcupine" + "gay marriage" is very enlightening.

These two posts from the Cape Cod Living blog are my favorites:

The big political event on the Cape this weekend was a screening of Al Gore's The Inconvenient Truth in Dennis. The folks from Cape Wind and The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound (Save Our Sound) were present. There were no knife fights in the parking lot and the only scandal was caused by Peter Porcupine who was caught illegally recording the debate which followed the movie.

Much more interesting is this:

Cape Wind certainly makes for strange bedfellows. Peter Porcupine (aka Cynthia Stead) Republican party wonk from the Cape has taken to blogging on BlueMassGroup.

Here's the full post:

They make an excellent point about the hypocrisy of "Peter's" hatred for Teddy Kennedy.

For those of you who don't know, "Peter Porcupine" is Cynthia Stead, the Republican State Committee Woman for the Cape & Islands.

It's kind sad that a woman who claims to have been married for 30 years spends so much time writing about voting on marriage. But then, "Peter" has only recently acknowledged being a party official.

Anonymous said...

For those of you who don't know, "Peter Porcupine" is Cynthia Stead, the Republican State Committee Woman for the Cape & Islands.

Oh, god help is. These are supposedly our best minds at work????? LOL Wow.

How did this info get out? Peter's Halloween entry is without a dumb the saddest thing I've ever read in my life. If I were him and my identity was revealed, I'd be holed up in my house like the Branch Dividians, too embarassed to come out.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who worked on a Republican state rep campaign. My friend was extremely dissatisfied with the party's Internet strategy, particularly their fondness for using Republican officials as sock puppets on local political blogs.

Peter Porcupine was one example he gave.

I shared it here after finding it had been mentioned on the Cape Cod Living blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the sockpuppetry, it's more the fact the PP sounds like a complete moron, and this is something they're high fiving each other over at Republican HQ? Boggles the mind. Way to make the Party even more irrelevant, peter. :)

Anonymous said...


Even more depressing is BMG embracing Peter as the voice of grass roots Republicanism. I don't know who is more delusional. Or egotistical.

As a gay libertarian, this is beyond depressing. I have no home.

Ryan Adams said...

I suggest creating your own, thus sucking the wind out of people out of others you disagree with. There's a niche for everyone, especially in libertarians in this state.

Anonymous said...

I find the whole gay marriage thing like kids fighting about what to watch on TV. When they can't peacefully decide, then just take the clicker and turn off the TV. Let's take away state control of marriage, replace it with binding economically based contracts and be done.

Ryan Adams said...

That just isn't going to happen. While, on the surface, I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to it, I think I would be opposed to some of the periphery issues around it. It would have been done simply because of gay people as a reactionary measure - and been illustrative of bigotry against gay people. It would mean that society just couldn't tolerate the idea of gay marriage - and I find that unacceptable. Furthermore, it would create a backlash against gay people from those in society who would blame the destruction of the institution of marriage on us.

Civil marriage should stay. If people can't understand that there's a difference between civil marriage and religious ceremony, shame on them. It's their own damn problem, though.

Anyone who would prefer to enter into a domestic partnership - gay, straight or anything in between - should be allowed to do so, but civil marriage should stay too.

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