A reader who lives in Malden passed along an excellent letter he sent to his state representative, Hall of Shame member Paul Donato (D-Medford), and gave me permission to publish it. Here it is.
January 3, 2007
Hon. Paul J. Donato
House of Representatives
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Rep. Donato:
I am writing to you not only as your constituent but also as someone who felt deeply moved by the meeting my partner Marcony and I had in your office last November, and particularly touched that I reminded you of your late nephew. Your vote yesterday in the Constitutional Convention to advance the amendment that seeks to ban future same-sex marriages was a sad, sorrowful act. Not surprisingly, your nephew was the first person I thought of when I read your name off of the roll call.
I am not sure how you reached this difficult and tortured decision, but you left clues in our meeting that you were grappling with several key points on both sides of the debate. You appeared to cling to two statistics in particular, which privately, I am quite certain, helped you determine your vote: the 123,000 certified signatures gathered to generate this amendment; and your annual surveys to constituents.
As I hope you know, the 123,000 signatures are not a guarantee that an initiative ought to be placed on a ballot. If it were, then why would the Constitution require the 50-vote minimum of both chambers in two successive years in order to advance the petition? You and your colleagues are not a mere pass-through for this or any amendment; your deliberative and collective energies are required to evaluate its merits. Regrettably, you felt my personal rights were insignificant enough to be put to a popular vote.
Additionally, you were very proud of your annual constituent surveys, and equally impressed that, since 2004 – months after the November 2003 SJC ruling – the results have moved from a wide margin against gay marriage to a rather slim majority against in our district. You even acknowledged that one day soon, the majorities might be reversed. With all due respect, sir, this is a funny way to run a railroad.
These surveys are not scientific and surely skewed to represent the most conservative members of your constituency. How? Even if you send them to every registered voter in the district (and if you send them only to a select mailing list, then surely these results are not accurate), think about the type of voter who is most likely to respond to a Paul Donato survey. They are probably older, more likely-to-vote, long-term voters in your district, who recognize your name on the newsletter, maybe even know you personally for 30 years; senior voters who, in scientific polling are the least likely to support same-sex marriage. I personally have never received one of these surveys, and I am an excellent voter; after our meeting in November, I asked everyone one in my building if they filled out and responded to your survey; none had even seen it. I asked neighbors on Gould Avenue; same answer.
Who exactly does receive this survey?
I think, if this survey holds so much sway in your vote on my personal rights, it should give you pause that in your narrowly-defined universe of survey respondents, the fact that your results were so close suggests that there is probably majority support in your district for same-sex marriage if you used a scientific polling method for your research.
I certainly hope you reconsider your position on both your survey, but more importantly, at next year’s Constitutional Convention, in which, unfortunately, the amendment will once again re-surface. And when it does, you remember that my family is no different than yours: Italian-American, strong on family values, Sunday dinner with those whom you love. Why wouldn’t I want the same protections for my love of Marcony as you have with your spouse? Why wouldn’t you want them for your nephew?
Until you reconsider, you have not only lost my vote, but more importantly, you have lost my respect.
c.c.: Hon. Richard R. Tisei, State Senator
What a painful irony that Mark’s senator, Republican Richard R. Tisei, voted the right way on both the anti-marriage amendment and the health care amendment. Perhaps amicus is onto something — since the state Republican party is an empty shell right now anyway, might it be worth trying to fill it with progressive candidates to knock off DINOs? One could always switch after the election. Or not — and never mind the party of Saltonstall, you could work on restoring the party of Lincoln. It would be an interesting exercise in redefining what political parties mean, since such a candidate would probably be more of a Deval-backer than the typical legislative Democrat. The tactical question, I guess, is whether it’s easier to win as a Dem in a low-turnout primary, or win as a Republican in a Democratic district in the general.
I’m also struck by Mark’s suggestion about polling. Does anyone know how much district-by-district scientific polling would cost? If we could sponsor a polling project for districts represented by “persuadable” legislators (and perhaps Donato is one), it might prove to be a real eye-opener.