I'll be the first to admit that how things get done in government are almost as important - and sometimes even more important - than what things get done. However, nothing in life is black and white and there's always a little room for gray. As January 2nd inches ever closer and Massachusetts quickly nears its newest Constitutional Convention, gay marriage is again the heated topic - to everyone's detriment. Never mind the fact that there are far more important - and undecided - issues facing this state, somehow gay marriage has driven a steak through the progressive movement's heart. A large health care lobby and most gay rights supporters just so happen to be on the opposite sides of a bleeding heart.
So, what the heck has gone on here? There are four sides to this story:
- Team Homophobia - the Vote on Marriage types. They've continually lost ground since Goodridge, but keep on trucking because desperate mice may actually attack the cat. (And lose miserably, becoming a tasty treat.)
- The Health Care Lobby - for some strange reason, they've bought the idea that the reason their amendment is going to fail has something to do with marriage equality - they even sent an amicus brief in support of Team Homophobia's case. They've forgotten the fact that their bill really died long before marriage equality came up for a vote.
- The Process People - people who may or may not support gay rights, but think that the most important thing about our government is the "process." Bad laws are okay to pass, so long as they're done in a good way. So it's okay to throw Nana under the bus, just so long as a majority of voters think that should be legal.
- Gay Rights Activists - be they gay, straight or something in between, gay activists have worked damn hard to gain equal rights in Massachusetts. Most of them don't want to see their rights on the ballot, even if that means their elected representatives need to play hard ball.
So, who's right? To be clear, if the letter of the law was followed, the State Legislature should have an up or down vote. The constitution implies it.
However, is this issue black and white? Or is there gray? There's no mistaking it; the amendment crafted by Vote on Marriage was authored by a bunch of homophobes and would result in massive discrimination. Furthermore, the Health Care folks clearly just care about one thing: themselves. That's why they've asked to push both the gay-ban and health care amendments forward to their next logical conclusions, despite the fact that there's precedent indicating the Supreme Judicial Court has no power or right to do that. So, their remedy to the legislature potentially breaking the Constitution (it hasn't happened yet) is to ask the Supreme Judicial Court to throw it in a shredder. Worst yet, this deplorable amendment only needs 1 in 4 state reps and senators to vote "yes" for hate to gain ground.
Clearly, both Vote on Marriage and the Health Care peeps are morally wrong. Yet, they're following the process. So which wins out? Is this a case where the ends do justify the means? Or is this a situation where Team Homophia & Friends need to be put down - even when hunting's out of season? Where to draw the line?
How about hypocrisy? It would be one thing if what the State Legislature is about to do on January 2nd had never occurred. If Massachusetts ConCons had always followed the rules - and suddenly tried to break them this year - then there'd be major reason to cry process. However, Constitutional Convention after Constitutional Convention, no one has followed the rules. Some may even doubt if most elected officials even knew all the rules. There has almost certainly been a constitutional amendment that didn't receive an "up or down" vote in just about every year there have been ConCons. Sometimes, maybe Beacon Hill just didn't get to finish them because of time constraints. Other years, there's probably a little more malice.
This past year, there was no malice. Parliamentary procedure was used to protect civil rights. The State Leg dodged an "up or down" vote - as they've done hundreds of times before - because they wanted this issue to die. They've decided, over and over again, to protect civil rights now and aren't interested in putting that hard work up to a vote that only requires 25% support to pass.
But is there hypocrisy? Yes. Despite the fact that myriad amendments died before they ever got a vote, it's gay rights being attacked. While many of the people attacking it aren't openly homophobic, it stands to reason that at the very least, being biased, they just don't see gay marriage as an important issue. After all, it doesn't effect them.
I ask: Where were these people when former Mayor of Boston, Ray Flynn, supported the legislature employing parliamentary procedures to block a vote on a constitutional amendment? Now that people are trying to block discrimination against glbt people, Ray Flynn has seen the light and - wait for this - thinks the "process" needs to be protected. Hypocrisy, much? Can't people see it? If this were Clean Elections, sure there would have been a fuss, but it would have gone away pretty soon. After all, Kerry Healey wasn't screaming for Clean Elections even though the legislature tampered with that ballot initiative. She barely mentioned it. Yet, she was very vocal when it came to the Vote on Marriage folks.
Still, some say,
- "We need to vote on this to hear the end."
- "You'll be doing this year after year, Ryan."
- "This will never go away."
They probably still won't give up. Just look at them work around the country! In Massachusetts, people are complaining the courts decided marriage equality. In California, when their State House passed gay marriage, Arnold vetoes it because 'the court or voters (by initiative)' should decide. Which is it? You can't win with Team Homophobia, they're like little kids who keep on making up rules until they finally "win." According to Arnold, it's okay for the court to decide who can marry, but not in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, despite the fact that the legislature votes on almost all issues, it's wrong for a majority of our elected officials to say "enough is enough" when it comes to gay marriage. Hypocrisy is a term the homophobic sadly haven't grasped yet.
So who is right?
To Team Homophobia & Company - whoever says they win.
To people who care about what's right? Our state's courageous politicians, who are willing to take serious heat and take a bold step in ending discrimination. Here is one case where playing tough is worth it, even at the cost of an already deeply flawed process.