Thursday, June 14, 2007

Not So Fast, Joan Vennochi: You're Wrong on Marriage Equality

Joan Vennochi seems to go on the attack against Patrick today, instead of - I don't know - speaking in favor of equal rights.

It's good politics for Patrick. The gay community supported his candidacy and he needs continued support from his base, especially after a politically rocky start. But rhetoric and symbolism only go so far. Now Patrick needs something tangible in return for his efforts: enough votes to block the amendment. Postponement of a vote will be viewed as weakness and a setback for those who support same-sex marriage.

Maybe MassEquality wants a vote, but I've given up on Mass Equality as an effective organization to argue on behalf of my rights. If there aren't the votes to kill this thing now, then postponing it is obviously a better option than allowing it on the ballot. If Patrick can help swing people to postpone, kudos to him. It isn't weak or a loss, it's fighting for what's right.

However, since I like to be constructive in my treatment of the media, here's where I can agree:

Patrick and other same-sex marriage backers are running up against a strong argument from those who support the ban on same-sex marriage -- that the people have the right to vote on this controversial issue.
Obviously, citizens have to be able to vote for change on the constitution. You can't create a system of laws that can never be changed. What you can do is create a system of laws that are difficult to change - unlike Massachusetts's constitution. MassEquality's big mistake in their line of reasoning was to argue "no one should be able to vote," even if it's on "civil rights." What they should have said is "the bar is set far too low." In what world is 25% of the legislators enough to push an amendment forward? If MassEquality picked that line of argument, we wouldn't be here today: even conservative constituents can get behind that.

If MassEquality took that position, we'd have the cover to bury this whole thing procedurally. Then, we'd have to political will to do the right thing and revamp the constitutional process so it works. If we had a process that worked, there would have been no need to have decades of using procedure to block amendments.

Get rid of the 25% provision and turn it into the standard 50% + 1 to advance the amendment. Then, because we're talking about the Constitution here - Higher Law - it should take a 2/3rds majority to make change on the final ballot, whatever that ballot looks like (hopefully not in the form of a plebescite). Constitutions aren't supposed to be easy to change, the vast majority of people understand why. If MassEquality fought to change the constitution, not challenged the ability of the people to vote, then these "let the people vote" chants would have fallen on deaf ears... and this amendment would have been dead - procedurally - a long time ago. If Joan Vennochi, as a columnist, wants someone to blame (nothing gets readership like a juicy attack piece) - look no further than Marc Solomon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the "higher laws" are getting interpreted by judges all the time, and then they in essence are changing the constitutions to suit their whims.

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