Friday, December 22, 2006

Enough About the Process

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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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Here's what happened: the gay rights activists pushed a petition to ban gay marriage, apparently getting enough signatures to move the process forward. The Health Care folks couldn't have cared less about marriage equality and it wasn't on their radar - until, that is, their amendment was pushed behind marriage. Suddenly, the Health Care folks have jumped aboard Team Homophobia for their own selfish purposes. Which, ultimately, leads to a lot of very angry gay rights activists rabidly doing what they can to protect their rights.

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."
You know what? You're right. But I'll be doing this year after year no matter what happens on January Second. If we beat them playing tough, they'll try to come back. If we beat them within the parameter of the rules, they'll come back anyway. As long as there are homophobic people out there, we'll never hear the end of them. As long as people can be hired to collect signatures, we'll be facing homophobic ballot initiatives. The only thing rational people can do is make them lose in a bad way - giving them no hope in the future. At least, that way, only the craziest of crazies will still pursue discrimination.

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.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is probably some degree of hypocrisy on all sides, but it is funny to watch the VOM guys tie themselves up into pretzels of convoluted logic and hypocrisy.

"Activist judges" are the first ones they run to when they don't get their way in the legislature.

It's wrong to tamper with the Constitution, but activist judges need to do it right away.

The people need to vote, if the people voted for equality they'd say we need to assign votes to citizens who didn't bother to go to the polls, or we need to have a new vote in a state where they'll get a better result and make it legally binding here.

They'll never give up. 2006 and they're still trying to drag us back to the Middle Ages.

Laurel said...

Nicely outlined, Ryan. Over at BMG, most HC and Process folks rejected the implication that their deeds or priorities boiled down to homophobia or support thereof. Well, they will have a chance to show the purity of their motiviations after the SJC rules and after Jan2nd (as you appropriately note, the alleged dereliction of duty hasn't even happened yet, because there *is* still the opportunity to meet and vote Jan 2nd). Here's a comment I posted at BMG that explains what they can do (besides working openly to foil Team Homophobia) to prove the purity of their actions.

If it's broke, fix it. Is far as I can see, the only remedy to any potential voting loophole is to amend the constitution to fix it. It will be telling if the folks up in arms over the vote to postpone just wander away after the SJC rules, or if they get into gear and put together an initiative petition to get what's ailing them fixed (HC cmte + VOM = lotsa signatures, some of them valid, even!). Unless that happens, the system will be used (some will say abused) as is. And that's just the way it is. I have to put up with the 1913 laws - they have to put up with non-votes.

Of course, the SJC's ruling could make my 2 cents worthless currency. I'm staying tuned...

Likes Bikes 2 said...

Right on, Ryan.

That's one of the arguements which shows the ignorance - as in not understanding the level of hatred motivating the VOM types - the 'it will just keep coming up until there is a vote in the legislature'.

Um, there have been votes in Con-Cons, for state reps, for Governor. They keep losing. They will keep losing as the tide keeps turning away from them.

But for those whom they target, the more they get humored, the worse their venom gets. The targets get hurt, and they bystanders with nothing at stake merely say, 'just follow the process and they'll feel heard'.

Double bull hockey sticks.

And the Health Care people can claim purity all they want, but when you stand with the haters, some of it rubs off onto you.

Anonymous said...

I read the actual HCA for the first time yesterday. It's a mess. Much as I might agree with the sentiment, it is so ambiguous as to be virtually a lawyer's dream. And the provision that provides that proposals passed by the legislature be thereafter voted on by the electorate makes no sense at all.

I personally would prefer a health care system such as they have in Germany. It is state organized ("Gesetzlich") but not state provided ("vom Staat"), ensures that all Germans working in Germany and immigrants working there are covered. And allows for a vibrant private insurance system that can be accessed by those who earn more than a certain income and can pay for it.

--raj

joe said...

Raj,

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

--Joe

Anonymous said...

So, since the COnstitution has been violated repeatedly in the past, its ok to keep doing it into the future? Bring back interposition and nullification!

Also, can you cite some evidence that Ray Flynn supported violating the Constitution in the past, or does it simply fit nicely with your skewed view of the world and so your going to run with it?

Ryan Adams said...

I linked to the story just a few blogs ago - on my address to Cardinal O'Malley.

And, no, it's not okay to violate the constitution, unless you're willing to accept the responsibilities of doing that. Beacon Hill has resoundingly said "yes, we are." And the consequences will be an angry opinion issued by the SJC filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing. Because they have no teeth here.

If you have a problem with the fact that the state constitution gives full authority on this particular matter to the state house, you'll just have to change that part of the constitution first. However, I think it's done a real service in protecting people's rights because NOTHING should be able to pass with just 25% of the leg's votes. Even staunch republicans who frequent this website, such as Joe, have agreed with me on that.

Anonymous said...

Violating the Constitution should NEVER be acceptable, not even if you are willing to accept the consequences. Our democracy depends on us following it, all the time, even if you disagree with it. Otherwise we cease tobe a democracy and start to live in a dictatorship.

Also, the link you cite in the O'Malley post doesn't provide any evidence that he supported the leges actions, just that he was mayor when it happened before. You should either proide better evidence, or remove that claim from your post.

Anonymous said...

According to Chris Mason, he supported the measure. Since I trust Chris on the subject, I'm willing to stake that position. According to Donald Trump, real estate is a good way to make money. Since I trust Donald Trump on economic matters, I'd imagine real estate can be a good way to make money.

And where did I say it was acceptable to violate the constitution? My position months ago was that the Leg should have had an up or down vote, but they didn't. My issue is that people like you have taken this up as th cause when legislatures past have done this DOZENS of times. The reason this is a big deal is because of homophobia. In fact, I highly doubt marriage and health care are the only issues that won't be voted on. There simply isn't enough time. Lastly, nothing has been violated yet. There still is a ConCon on the 2nd.

If you're so worried about democracy in this country, why aren't you on this website crying out about President Bush and habeus corpus? President Bush has done far more to erode the Constitution.

~Ryan (not signed in).

Anonymous said...

And, no, it's not okay to violate the constitution, unless you're willing to accept the responsibilities of doing that. Beacon Hill has resoundingly said "yes, we are."

You say right there that it is acceptable to violate it. As to me complaining now, but not then, there is a simple explanation for that. Like you, I was too young to be politically active at that level. If I was, I would have opposed adjouring without taking a vote on that amendment, even though I oppose term limits.

Its not me being selective. I support following the Constitution, even when I don't like the ultimate result. I accept Deval's victory as legitimate, even though I supported one of his primary opponents because he won fair and square. This amendment is being killed through a breach of the rules. I would have opposed adjourning in the term limits case, too.

As for Ray, I don't know who Chris Mason is, so you will have to do better than provide third hand anecdotal evidence. As to Bush, were you there protesting at his first inauguration? I was. Did you fast from the Wednesday in March when he announced that we were going to war until the Monday in May when he announced Mission Accomplished? I did. Did your away message show the numbers of US soldier and Iraqi civilian deaths for months and months after the war started? Mine did. I oppose the trashing of the Constitution ever time I see it.

Anonymous said...

Your argument lacks all credibility until you answer these points:

"The reason this is a big deal is because of homophobia. In fact, I highly doubt marriage and health care are the only issues that won't be voted on. There simply isn't enough time. Lastly, nothing has been violated yet. There still is a ConCon on the 2nd."

Do that and then maybe I'll actually engage in this further.

~Ryan

Anonymous said...

Its not about homophobia. its about respecting the Constitution. I also oppose the health care amendment, but I want it to get voted on during the ConCon.

There isn't enough time? The leg has two years to take it up. In fact, there are 9 days before the session ends, and that doesn't include Christmas. I don't think anyone on Beacon Hill is so long winded that they can't get this accomplished in 9 days.

Finally, you know as well as I do that the reason it got pushed back to when it did is so that they could violate the Constitution and their oaths to uphold it at the same time. How can I claim you also know this to be true? Because you have said as much:

Sadly, I've been a huge proponent of a health care amendment since the beginning. However, the amendment died. It's dead and not coming back - this year. DEAD. D.E.A.D. DEAD. RIP.

Who lacks the credibility?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:58 PM

Its not about homophobia. its about respecting the Constitution.

Those of us who didn't fall off the turnip truck last night know that your comment is horse manure. See my comment below at http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=15133926&postID=116657755482677621 11:35 AM

--raj

Anonymous said...

There's surprisingly little on-line about the 1990 amendment protecting women's reproductive freedom.

My memory is that it was stopped by a similar maneuver and that Ray Flynn and others had absolutely no issues with it.

In fact, for the last 25 years the majority of amendments haven't been voted on.

It's not a violation of the constitution, it's part of the process. Just do a little searching: Adam Reilly has documented this, Dan Kennedy has documented this, ...

What's the difference with this amendment? It writes discrimination into the constitution. Oh, and our governor needs something to prove his creds with Christian homophobes.

bostonph said...

As to Bush, were you there protesting at his first inauguration? I was. Did you fast from the Wednesday in March when he announced that we were going to war until the Monday in May when he announced Mission Accomplished? I did. Did your away message show the numbers of US soldier and Iraqi civilian deaths for months and months after the war started? Mine did. I oppose the trashing of the Constitution ever time I see it.

I'm sorry, but who cares? Is being a more strident activist than Ryan somehow supposed to make you more credible?

You still haven't any facts to back your assertion that this is "trashing the constitution." Trashing Ryan doesn't count.

Anonymous said...

The SJC has ruled that not taking final action on an amendment, ie taking a final up or down vote on the amendment, is Unconstitutional. For our legislators to completely ignore that is to ignore what the Constitution requires of them, and their oaths to uphold that Constitution. Those are the facts. Thats trashing the Constitution.

I wasn't trying to put Ryan down, I was trying to show that I am concerned about the president's actions as well.

Anonymous said...

The SJC has ruled that not taking final action on an amendment, ie taking a final up or down vote on the amendment, is Unconstitutional.

Provide a cite which backs up your "ie" please.

Not voting on amendments has been standard operating procedure for 25 years. Why do you suddenly care?

Anonymous said...

Tem Limits vs. President of the Senate is your cite.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 11:43 AM

Tem Limits vs. President of the Senate is your cite.

Wonderful citation. It leads to no where. Not even on a google search.

Don't you wingnuts know how to cite?

--raj

Anonymous said...

Anon, this is completely bogus, sorry.

Everyone believes in the Constitution, but we also believe in certain basic rights. I suspect you're straight, well so am I. And the right to marry the person of my choosing is pretty basic to me, my life, and my pursuit of happiness, it was affirmed by the US Supreme Court in the 1960's.

The right to free speech and freedom of religion are also pretty basic. If you read our damn Constitution, you'll see that it's not too keen on the citizenry getting together to overturn judicial decision, as the judiciary is there to protect our basic rights and preserve us all from the tyranny of mobs who like to get together and decide how the rest of us can speak and associate.

Do you think marriage is a basic right? Hint, if it is for you it is for everybody. There is basically no one who would agree to have that right taken from them, they just want to take it from others. It's that fundamental.

As a result, I find it pretty freaking presumptupus lecturing people on how they're unprincipled hypocites because they're not leading a parade to deprive themselves on their most basic right and legally relegate themselves to second class status.

If someone were trying to take away your most fundamental rights, how would you feel about people who were blathering on about "Hey, this ain't gonna affect me. Sure, marriage is a basic right, and it always will be for me. My rights aren't in danger. Therefore the letter of procedure is what matters for me, and it should be what matters for you, too. Yeah, it sucks for you, guy, but it says right here you're not a man with the basic right to walk around freely, you're a piece of property. I don't agree with the Fugative Slave Act, and I'll feel bad thinking about you back on the plantation, but until I get declared property, the letter of the law is more important than some abstract "right" that I'll always be able to enjoy anyway. Civil dosopbedience causes the breakdown of society, however this comes out I'm doing okay, so what you should really be worried about are my delicate feelings and how bad I'll feel if a slightly shady, far from unprescedented procedural move prevents you from being declared a less than full citizen. Why can't you shared my high minded ideals and my cocoon of privilege? You're quite a hypocrite, no pronciples on you, huh? Yours don't hold up under a lash, mine are just swell sitting on my couch risking nothing. Guess I'm just a better person with stronger principles than yours."

I wouldn't feel too good about it. I also wouldn't give anyone the benefit of the doubt again after I learned they wanted to throw me under the bus because my life is so irrelevant, but wanted me to support them on their "important" stuff. That's not Coalition Building 101. I'm a straight white guy and my rights are never going to be in danger. But if they were, I'm pretty sure I'd even go to the extreme of a legislative recess to secure them. Maybe more, even. And I find other straight white guys I know telling people whose rights are on the line every day how to feel about it, especially in such and arrogant and insufferably indifferent way with their feet up on the couch drinking beer and looking at it like a spectator sport, just a little bit distasteful.

Anonymous said...

"as the judiciary is there to protect our basic rights and preserve us all from the tyranny of mobs who like to get together and decide how the rest of us can speak and associate."

And the SJC uses our Constitution to preserve our basic rights from the tyranny of the majority.

It's almost as if Mass State Constitution was in favor of a rights based democracy and protecting minorities from majority tyranny.

Cue Goodrich.

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