Tuesday, November 14, 2006

United Progressives of Massachusetts

When America was a loose federation of states, it seemed none of them got along. Some states were on the brink of war - with each other. No one used the same money. Tariffs were placed against each other. There was seemingly no connection between the former colonies. There was no cohesion, no strength. America seemed like a failed experiment. So wretched were things that, when leaders from around the country met at the Constitutional Convention to fix a few minor issues, they threw the baby out with the bath water. With an agreement to form a strong central government, coupled with an even stronger protection of fundamental rights, America was finally on the right track. Maybe that's exactly what we need from progressives in Massachusetts?

Over the past few days, I've chronicled my displeasure with the course of things over at Progressive Netroots HQ - the Massachusetts Branch, Blue Mass Group. BMG"s most renowned poster, David, took it on himself to create a jihad criticize pro-gay marriage folk who support the state legislature's efforts to kill a proposed amendment that would ban marriage equality. David doesn't think the State Legislature should use procedural maneuvers to block the amendment - and has said so over and over and over and over and over again.

Point taken, procedure is important. A few weeks ago, I fully agreed with him. Then, the legislature did the right thing: stopped discrimination from being written into the Constitution. It may not have been in the way David wanted, but that's the way that happened. Normally, people would move on. People like me would be happy - what happened advanced fundamental fairness, something both David and I agree on. However, David wasn't - hence the broken record attacks.

I don't blame David. He's a legalist. As a trained lawyer, who's in all likelihood very talented (he's worked for more than one US Supreme Court Justice), it would be very difficult for him to move beyond the importance of the legal process. However, as I've said on more than one occasion, it's a good thing we all aren't bound by obeying procedures at all costs. It's a good thing there's a wide range of perspectives. Sometimes the process comes at the cost of what's right - and that's when the process must be slightly bent. That's when hundreds of pounds of tea must be thrown into Boston Harbor; that's when people must hide runaway slaves in their homes as they make their way to freedom.

Over the course of the debate, a few good points have been made. Sco made the best point of all.

The thing of it is, David, that yesterday it was our ox. It was term limits, it was reproductive rights, it was education, it was clean elections -- all killed by the same or similar maneuvering. So, what makes this the line in the sand? What makes marriage equality the sacrifice that must be made in the name of process?

The fact of it remains that when any side is asked to make concessions for the greater movement, it's always expected of minorities. African Americans have been asked to make concessions time after time again - don't rock the boat now, we'll get you your rights later. It'll just take a little longer. Finally, with the help of a broad coalition of people from the SNCC to the NAACP and the likes of great leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. - the boat was finally rocked and rights were actually gained, even if it was merely being able to register to vote. The gay rights movement is no different, as Anthony eloquently explained.
I am a happy and contented individual, but none the less my life as a gay man has been a series of compromises, personal and political. I had to accept don't ask don't tell because it was the furthest they could go at the time, or so I was told. I had to accept DOMA because if we didn't accept Clinton signing it, his veto would have been over ruled anyway and then he would have lost too much political capital and we needed him.... All the while my husband and I have to prepare 4 tax returns every year and I panic just a little whenever we leave the state because God forbid something should happen when we go to visit family in Colorado this Christmas and they refuse to recognize my rights, even though we have a health care proxy which shouldn't need because we are married. I am done with compromising. It is time to take a stand and say clearly and plainly that the compromises are over.
When David wrote his compromise position - that everyone in the state legislature vote to ban marriage equality this time around, so we could vote on health care, I quickly rejected it. Obviously, I didn't think it much of a compromise. Again, the GLBT movement was asked to make all the concessions - and potentially lose everything in the process. Lightiris is right, this whole thing has become a sport and many normally rational people have been doing some great hunt'n of dem gays.

However, all is not lost. As our founding fathers figured out, sometimes you have to throw the baby out with the bath water. David's steamy compromise position was a real pile of stink, sending out fumes both intoxicating and unpleasant. I wrote a counterproposal, which was thankfully front-paged. One of the biggest Health Care proponents I've been debating for the past few days latched onto the idea - something I was excited about, to say the least.

I've been saying this for days: unite or lose. Our new progressive movement is only as strong as the coalition we build. We need to come to certain agreements, mainly that we're not going to stab each other in the back. That we can't have interest groups solely interested in themselves. Finally, I sense people are realizing that. After a few days that have seemed worthless, Massachusetts progressives are learning that lesson. We can unite - protect both marriage and work towards making health care a right - or we can lose, maybe even both rights. Progressives in Massachusetts must commit to a United Progressives of Massachusetts - or all of the hard work during the last election will amount to another steamy pile of stink, as we watch new DINOs reveal themselves, emboldened by divisions within the movement. We must stay strong and work together.


Laurel said...

VOM and MFI have sent out emails today trying to link votes on the HC and the Bigotry amendments. Besides blogging blather on procedure, are the HC folks willing to get in bed with VOM/MFI? Because is sure sounds like a cozy invitation is being offered to them by Kris Mineau.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, thanks for pointing out those 2 excellent posts by lightiris. I have not been reading that thread as I think the idea is just to stupid to be going on with. She hit all of the nails on the head.

I've been wondering whether there should be someone at BMG to give the shoulder tap, you know, the 'give it a rest already because now you're just pissing people off for the heck of it.'

Likes Bikes 2 said...

Tha last one was me.

Laurel, it will be telling, won't it?

Ryan Adams said...


Thanks for pointing that out. Any links to the text in those emails? Or could you perchance forward it to me? Shame on anyone who gets in bed with the Mass Family Institute. If they do, that's perverse, so let's hope there are enough people like the Ann I linked to who will finally get it.

Likesbikes2, Lightiris's comments really were voices of reason in an otherwise seemingly unreasonable blog world lately. I think the tide is turning among readers of BMG in great part because of the efforts of Lightiris, Sco, etc.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, are you familiar at all with the organization Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts? I don't know too much about it, but I do some really great people who are involved, it seems like it would be worth looking into.

don't rock the boat now, we'll get you your rights later. It'll just take a little longer

You nailed it. It's always wait a little longer and sacrifice now, because after all "the important things" are dealt with, we'll all all of a sudden be willing to go to the mat for you, too. Only the list of important things gets longer and longer and the day when they're not willing to trade away other people's rights never comes.

Anonymous said...

Will someone explain the 'rights' thing about gay marriage? Is there any logic here? 40 other states have defined marriage as a man and a woman. No one is 'losing' rights in those states.

The marriage benefits are a privilege, not a right.

There is no law against being gay in Mass. - who cares about a piece of paper?

Anonymous said...

Not so much. The right to marry and the right of adults to marry according to their own choosing regardless of the wishes of those outside the marriage was established by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia. From the decision:

"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."

The 14th Amendment provides equal protection under the law. Restricting marriage to opposite sex couples has no logical foundation other than an imposition of religion on public policy. It's as irrational and illegitimate as outlawing interracial marriage. In order for a restriction on basic civil rights to pass muster, there needs to be a compelling reason, along the lines of your freedom to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose. "Jesus hates gays and I should be able to control my neighbors because I'm really nosy" doesn't quite cut it. As Justice Warren ruled, statutes can't deprive citizens of liberty without due process.

Marriage is a privilege? Who knew. That being the case, we've got to start voting up-pr-down on each proposed marriage on a case by case basis, because a lot of couples I know don't deserve it. Feeling that way, though, I'm sure you'll never marry, because what have you done to deserve the privilege? None of us said it was okay by us if you want to enjoy these privileges. It's easy to talk about privileges not rights when you're the one who's getting them and you won't ever need to prove you deserve them. And why should an entire group of individuals who are arbitrarily excluded from this privilege have to contribute so you can enjoy yours?

As far as it being just a piece of paper, there are tremendous legal benefits that arise from marriage. If you're not married, you have fewer inheritance rights. You have fewer legal protections if your partner's family has his or her will overturned. You can be ejected from your jointly owned home far more easily than a lawfully married widow or widower. You're not entitled to married persons' tax exemptions. You don't have the same rights to sue for wrongful death as a legal spouse. Depending on where you live, your claim to your children isn't as strong as a biological parent's. There are a whole range of legal protections that you're excluded from. You're not permitted to be a full citizen and enjoy all the benefits our society confers upon a favored class. I'm guessing that anyone who needs these legal protections cares a whole lot about a piece of paper.

The question is, why does anyone else think it's his business whether someone else can or should be married? Or how s/he should feel about it?

Anonymous said...

Because you agree with it you use the Supreme Court's words to prop up the idea of gay marriage. The Supreme Court has been wrong before (the Dred Scott) decision. Maybe we need a new National Constitutional Convention to define all "basic rights", but don't be disappointed if it comes out the Right to Life people are correct.

Buddy said...

Okay, it looks pretty clear that marriage is a basic right, but that is assuming that it is the marriage of a man and a woman. The framers certainly had no intention of sanctifying same sex marriage.

Thanks to whomever posted the 14th ammendment item.

The post right before that mentions 'gay marriage' though, and it is pretty clear that this is not considered a right in over 40 states now, with Virginia and several other states defining marriage as a man and a woman exclusively.

Virginia swung Dem. also, and the marriage amendment won big, so the larger public doesn't see this as a party issue as much as it is an inherent natural right vs. a chosen or moral one.

The bit the 14th amend. poster missed is the consideration of gay marriage as a 'privilege', since his/her post is pretty reactive. Hey, if a state wants to grant that privilege, great. But to consider gay marriage a right, you will have to go national. Hence the backlash in process by the states against gay marriage.

Anonymous said...

No, I use the Supreme Court's words because right now you people are whining about legal technicalities and the definition of civil rights. I could give a dman what the Supreme Court says, marriage is a fundamental right and you know it. Can you honestly tell me that if Nancy Pelosi called for an end to marriage tomorrow, the same people who are now screaming marriage is a privilege not a right would say, hey, nancy's right! There's no right to marriage, my marriage is invalid and that's how it should be? Hello no, they'd say you can't outlaw marriage it's a fundamental right.

Fine. Let's leave the Supreme Court out of it. Give an argument against gay marriage that doesn't involve the Bible, gays make me feel all icky inside, or it's cool to discriminate against people who aren't me.

Anonymous said...

No, that assumes nothing, buddy. The 14th amendment covers gays, as well. They forgot to write in the no fag clause, so sadly we get covered. A man and a woman? Don't you mean a white man and a white woman? Or a rich man and a rich woman? That's really what the Framers intended, probably, too bad that's not what they wrote. Oh wait, you don't want to discriminate against them, so you're okay with their inclusion? Maybe Alabama's not, though.

What the Court did was to establish the right to marry the partner of your choice. nationwide. Virginia can't say that a black man can't marry a white woman. We can't say that a man can't marry a a woman. They can try but they are violating the 14th Amendemnt. If marriage is a right, again, then to restrict it you need a reason. Bigotry is not a reason. What is the reason? There is no reason.

It dioesn't matter how Virginia feels about gay marriage. It doesn't matter if Virginia wants to bring back slavery. It doesn't matter if Virginia wants to prevent you from attending church. It's called the Bill of Rights. You have rights that cannot be taken away without cause.

Marriage is not a privilege, it's a right. The United States Supreme Court has ruled. That's a ntional body. I know it's a right and you know it's a right. You know it when it comes to you, that is. Nobody better try to take away your right to be married, right? It's only a privilege in your mind when it comes to other people. That's called discrimination. That's a violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. That's also a federal law, and if Massachusetts or Virginia don't like it, they need to secede.

Ryan Adams said...

If we want to go all Constitutional on this...

There's this nice little clause in the Constitution that's called the 'full faith and credit' clause. Essentially, it means states have to recognize the contracts other states agree to. Which means that if someone can get married in Massachusetts, they could then move to other states and - constitutionally - those states would have to recognize the marriage. That should include gay marriage.

Now, during the Clinton administration there was this evil thing that got through called the "Defense of Marriage Act." Essentially, it tried to cancel out the constitutional provision I already mentioned. However, any sane judge worth their grain of salt will vote it down... it's just a matter of when.

Marriage is a right. Every person, gay or straight, will have it. It's just a matter of when.

StunnedVoter said...

"Because you agree with it you use the Supreme Court's words to prop up the idea of gay marriage. The Supreme Court has been wrong before (the Dred Scott) decision."

Wha? Okay I don't want to be mean but some of you guys are starting to scare me. Yeah, the Supreme Court has been wrong many times. So we're supposed to disregard them and pretend they don't exist because you fear the gays? And rely on. Congress. And the President.

Because the chances of them being wrong? Far less, so we should worship them as gods.

And maybe gay marriage will lead to returning slaves to plantations, based as it is on the same sorts of individual rights that were recognized for the first time only after slavery was abolished.

That's a new one, but hey. Makes sense to me. :)

"Maybe we need a new National Constitutional Convention to define all "basic rights", but don't be disappointed if it comes out the Right to Life people are correct."

But you know what? The Constitutional Framers did a good job of laying out all those "basic rights," love the scare quotes, in a nonsecret widely available document, so it's not really necessary.

Let's give our own John Adams some love! This is your life! You were a terrible President, but you fought valiently for liberty in Philly against the slave loving South, wrote our great state constitution specifically to outlaw slavery without asking for a referendum on it, and in doing so, promoted the cause of freedom so that we recognize same sex marriage today! Thanks JA!

Know what happened shortly after the Constitutional Convention, though? The colonial legislatures had been going kind of crazy and started violating individual rights (see Pennsylvania), and as collections of free men who opposed tyranny and loved liberty, the states wouldn't ratify the document without some guarantee of all the basic liberties that couldn't be taken away from them by the local yahoos for no reason.

Say Hello to Our Big Wonderful Friend, not just "a" bill, but THE bill, the Bill of Rights! Hooray! Our basic rights have been defined! They ratified ya Bill, now you're a law! 1791, BABY!

Not that it's not a good idea to define basic rights by decision of the local yahoos who want to take everyone else's rights away while preserving their own. I'm sure if our forebears weren't dead set against that happening, they totally would have been in favor of it.

If only they had thought, when trying to preserve individual rights from yahoo tyranny, how cool it would be if the reign of yahoo tyranny could eventually be reconsidered and reinstalled. I'm positive if they'd known that in 2006 incubators would have voting rights and the little clumps of cells inside their bodies would not, they wouldn't have been so rash with all the "rights" hoo-haa.

Anonymous said...

So I guess we can assume, anon 12:36, that you reject the Court's ruling in Loving as another Dred Scott and think that interracial marriage is another case of "let the people decide"? Or is it all marriage where the state should decide if/who you can marry?

You talk about the sanctity of marriage and all you do is tear down the institution and talk about how superfluous and frivilous and unnecessary it is. According to you, marriage isn't basic, marriage isn't fundamental, marriage isn't vital.

By the time you people are finished, nobody will be allowed to be married and it will all be on you.

Anonymous said...

I am for scrapping marriage, since 50% don't work anyway. Make binding civil contracts that decide what happens to the kids(before there are any) and the wealth. Then let people live like they want, the pursuit of happiness. Only the divorce lawyers would miss marriage.

Ryan Adams said...

Well, I'm not sure if I can agree with you about scrapping marriage, but civil contracts aren't a bad idea. Creating some sort of mandatory pre-nup isn't bad either, even if it's only to say "we'll split everything 50-50 and share costudy of any children."

I don't really see anything wrong with pre-nups, yet people tend not to get them.

LIkes Bikes 2 said...

I made a mistake. I read through some of the responses on that thread at BMG posted by maverickdem.

The people who keep screaming, 'VOTE', are getting more shrill by the minute. Not only are they hurting their own voices, but the other people in the room too.

So what to do? Continue to respond to the screamers in the corner? Not read the thread anymore? Have we reached the point where responding only serves to continuing this harmful discussion?

The screamers are not going to change thier minds on what the 'process demands', nor will they open their ears or hearts to hear how hurtful and harmful their lashing out has become.

Is further discussion futile? It is really sad that it has come to this.

Funny how they condem Nacy Polosi for picking sides in the Murtha/Hoyer fight and messing up the Dem's post election buzz, but then they do the same kind of thing in MA.

Ryan Adams said...

Honestly, I'm trying to let the issue die down. The progressive movement needs the bulk of the gay population - and the gay population needs the entirety of the progressive movement. It's a symbiotic relationship.

I think we've convinced enough of them that it's really only people like "Kia" and Mavedem who are boisterous about the issue. Considering Kia is borderline homophobe and MavDem is anything but a progressive, I'm ready to cut our losses.

lightiris said...


You've done an admirable job making your case over on BMG. I have found the entire mess over there very disheartening and frustrating. I thought some of the posters over there were less reflexive and more considered than it seems. Although I am not a lesbian, my sister is and has been in a committed relationship for over 10 years. They have not married but have not ruled out the possibility. What's more relevant for them is that my sister has cancer. I don't need to tell you what the future may hold.

At any rate, I just wanted to pat you on the back for a job well done. I sense a schism over there, a fracturing of the burgeoning sense of community, but that's to be expected, I guess. It's disappointing nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

This is an argument for Anon. 5:33 PM. Being gay is a choice.
It's popularity waxes and wanes in history. Gay people have fewer children than straight people, so by the rules of evolution, there should be fewer of them all the time if it's hereditary. So, you could say you 'chose' another kind of marriage because you aren't in a relationship where you have a natural righ to it.

Besides, you have to admit that the ideal environment for a kid is one where there is both a male and a female working closely together to create a balanced and benevolent environment. You can't really replace that via other relationships. Okay, so gay folks say you can, but honestly...

WOW, I can hear the screaming now. Pargraph 1 is an argument that's out there. You asked for it. Paragraph 2 is just a natural fact.

bostonph said...

I sense a schism over there, a fracturing of the burgeoning sense of community, but that's to be expected, I guess. It's disappointing nonetheless.

I agree, wholeheartedly, but think it's beyond fracturing. David essentially decided to make BMG a safe haven for homophobia in the name of discussion. The problem is to him it's a legal game, rather than a matter of people's rights.

Ryan argues David's not a homophobe. I don't know him, so can only judge him by his words. He may not be one, but the company he's keeping is pretty shady. At the end of the day, is there any real difference between David's position and MFI's besides putative intent?

I had dinner with a group of gay men tonight. All of them commented on how much damage David has done in the last week. It's tragic. None of use feel at home on BMG anymore.

I'm personally going to stop reading BMG. I have far, far better things to do with my time.

Ryan Adams said...


Well, all I can say is I tried to warn BMG that this would happen with their repeated threads. Personally, a little competition with BMG would do all of Massachusetts some good... so if anyone's out there willing to make a second all-Massachusetts political blog, I'll be wholehardedly supporting it. More is better.

Lightiris, thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate them - and the story from your real life. I hope your sister makes a full - or as close to it as possible - recovery. And that hospitals don't give her partner (or you) any trouble with visitation. With my brother having spent a good 6-8 months of his life in a hospital when he needed a heart valve transplant, I've come to the belief that a hospital's only visitation policy should be "who does the patient want to see - and when?"

Anon 10:33pm: As has been the case throughout history, it's often not possible to have two parents. For example, my parents were divorced. I was raised by my mother. Am I any worse for it? Maybe, but I think I turned out pretty well. I'm intelligent, kind, have a decent work ethic and a spirit of wanting to 'give back.'

What people need is loving parents. Having 2 of them is better, for the sake of the child. Unlike what appears to be your case, I actually KNOW people who were raised by lesbian mothers. Not only did they turn out great, but I think they turned out damn near perfect. You don't need a mother and father, you just need love and lots of it. And, as it stands, you've already lost the "can lesbian or gay couples be parents" debate. Gay people have been able to adopt in Massachusetts since the Dukakis era. Stopping them from getting married only hurts the kids, who now have to live as "bastard children" because society won't let their parents marry in most states. They now have to worry about things like health care, visitation, what happens if one of their parents die and all sorts of other terrible things that a heterosexual couple wouldn't have to worry about.

PS: The popularity of homosexualality hasn't "waxed and waned" throughout history. There has always been a similar amount of gay people. The only difference is, during history, some societies drove gay people in the closet and some societies let them be themselves (and even considered being gay a noble thing, as is the case with China and Japan). Since being gay has been an eduring thing in society, it makes little sense to discriminate against gay people - who have higher rates of suicide, depression and have to cope with a helluva lot more than heterosexuals, all because of societal discrimination.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering whether there should be someone at BMG to give the shoulder tap, you know, the 'give it a rest already because now you're just pissing people off for the heck of it.'

Someone tried this. They got flamed by David's merry band of pet Republicans: Peter Porcupine, Kai, ...

Stick a fork in BMG. They're done.

Anonymous said...

Just to drive the point home. A Republican friend on the Cape just came from a meeting with Cynthia Stead. She was bragging on having brought David around to the Republican point of view on the gay marriage amendment vote.

Over on MediaNation, a 'phobe is quoting MavericDem's ranting on BMG to back up his point on gay marriage.

David has screwed the pooch, but good.

About Ryan's Take