Hold pundits, political bloggers and newspaper editorialists responsible for their unprincipled calls for fealty to an arcane provision of a heretofore obscure constitutional amendment versus longstanding democratic principles that recognize fundamental human rights such as the right to marry. We must bring this debate back to the place from which it has strayed: the moral code by which we live.
Make no mistake, these editorials, columns and blog posts had a devastating impact on the proceedings. Influential opinion makers like Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, the Globe editorial board and CBS News political analyst Jon Keller need to explain why they called for a different set of rules for the legislature’s handling of a measure that seeks to take away from gay people already established rights. Unlike the way the legislature typically handles proposed constitutional amendments year in and year out, these new rules called for a standard that was much more difficult to meet.
And let’s just say it over and over and over again: the Supreme Judicial Court’s Dec. 27 statement that lawmakers have a constitutional obligation to take up-or-down votes on constitutional amendments brought via initiative petition was a grotesque example of judicial activism. The statement was irrelevant to the court’s legal ruling, which was a quick dismissal of the lawsuit seeking to force lawmakers to vote. And it was an example of judges telling legislators what to do even though the judges, by their own admission, had no authority over the matter. What on earth do you think social conservatives, who have created a cottage industry out of the notion of “legislating from the bench,” would have done with this opinion if they didn’t agree with it?
We must be in frequent contact with our state reps and senators demanding that they put an end to this debate once and for all. Here’s something to think about: some of your lawmakers, the very ones who have told you that they unequivocally support your right to marry, have whined to those advocating on your behalf that they’ve done enough already. They haven’t. No one has. Our right to marry has yet to be secured. Make it absolutely clear to your representatives that it is not enough to support your right to marry. You want someone who will defend your right to marry even if it means killing the marriage amendment via procedural vote. (Feel free, by the way, to point out the absurdity of the notion that taking a procedural vote is somehow courageous.)
The organizations advocating on your behalf need your help: MassEquality, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, the Freedom to Marry Coalition, the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, to name just a few. Send money. Ask your friends and family to make donations. Volunteer.
We can win this fight. And we will. We have made unimaginable gains over the last three years. Just after the SJC issued its Goodridge ruling, a mere handful of lawmakers supported our right to marry. Today, 134 do. Not a single pro-equality lawmaker has lost his or her seat. Compare that with the entrenched anti-gay incumbents (Vinny Ciampa, Susan Pope, Marie Parente and Mark Howland), who have been tossed out of office. Many new lawmakers have been sent to Beacon Hill thanks, in part, to their strong support for marriage equality. More than 17,000 of us have exercised our right to marry. We have created a political movement in Massachusetts that’s become a model for the nation.
We will not win if we try to coast on this success. It’s time to dig in and build on what we’ve already achieved.
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