Last night, the Marriage Equality Coalition of the South Coast hosted Marc Solomon of Mass Equality in New Bedford. Marc came prepped with a power-point presentation to discuss the history of the marriage movement post Goodridge - and where we're at now. Specifically, they're focused on avoiding a plebiscite, but are prepared to raise the "15-20 million" they'll need to defeat Team Homophobia if we lose at the next ConCon.
While I appreciate Mass Equality's efforts on marriage equality - there may be no such equality without it - I can't help but think we need to try our hand at some new tactics. To be successful, any movement has to stay on top of their opponents in all sorts of areas - so when Solomon spoke about how anti-marriage foes were winning the rhetorical debate with 'let the people vote' chants, it makes me a little worried. Clearly, we're not staying on top of things.
A movement needs foresight to be effective - this isn't just about the next ConCon. To win, we need to build momentum on our side again - set the discourse and look like the sure bet. To do that, we need some successes and new messages going into the next ConCon. In terms of messaging, it's time to challenge the very principal upon which we allow the plebiscite to determine rights of the minority.
Even many conservative Republicans would agree that 25% of the legislature is a bar set too low to move amendments forward; why not push that angle? If the public disagrees with the amendment process, they're not going to care if we block this amendment procedurally. It won't cost a single legislator their seat. We need a narrative that says "civil rights now, procedure later" and promise not to block anything procedurally when the process is fair. The fact is I am a process person, but when it just doesn't work and is universally ignored, it's time to scrap it.
I asked Marc Solomon about trying to change the process and he essentially told me 'maybe you could start that movement' last night, because Mass Equality just wasn't going to do it. As if this 22 year old, broke college student could do that? Solomon's missing a golden opportunity to shape the debate - and look toward the future. He's also missing an opportunity to bring in allies, key in the marriage debate, who would easily agree with a new amendment process.
It seems like lots of people think if we can kill the amendment this year, it'll be dead for good. Well, it's not that hard to get 68,000 signatures - so that kind of thinking is crazy. Unless people want to be stopping these petitions every year by the slimmest of margins (since it only takes 25% of state legislators to pass), we ought to be trying to overhaul the system.
Secondly, we need some small successes and momentum going into the next ConCon. The atmosphere must belong to us. To do that, I suggest Mass Equality and allies demand the state legislature repeal the 1913 racist/homophobic law that stops out-of-state gay couples from getting married here. Governor Patrick is our ally on this issue; we've got our ace on the mound. It's message-sending time: we can push equality bill after equality bill until people get the basic concept that Massachusetts is about personal freedom, not suppression and religious intolerance. It's better to go in victorious on important issues, than last year's ConCon loser.
Marriage equality, in Massachusetts, ought to feel very safe. It's an almost 4 year incumbent that's directly benefited 17,000 people - 8,500 happily wedded same-sex couples. Imagine that kind of constituent service - and its leader admits the other side has the momentum? No sir-ree. People in Massachusetts have been very supportive, almost from the start. It's time to take advantage of that understanding and expand rights for all, by building momentum and using it to protect the political process from further abuse by amending the state constitution in a responsible way. Marc Solomon and Mass Equality could be a key to that process, but they're just not there yet.