Thursday, June 14, 2007

Let me be among the first to say...

A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was defeated today by a joint session of the [Massachusetts] Legislature by a vote of 45 to 151, eliminating any chance of getting it on the ballot in November 2008. At least 50 votes were needed to advance the measure. ...

"In Massachusetts today, the freedom to marry is secure," [Governor Deval] Patrick told reporters after the vote. ...

Opponents of gay marriage face an increasingly tough battle to win legislative approval of any future petitions to appear on a statewide ballot. The next election available to them is 2012.
In November 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state had "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason" for denying marriage to same-sex couples sufficient to override the principle of equal treatment. At the time, I predicted that
lawmakers are now going to rush rush rush to introduce and push through an amendment to the state constitution that will specifically bar same-sex marriages.
Which they did try to do, after first asking if a weaker, watered-down "civil unions" bill would do and getting slapped down by the SJC in no uncertain terms:
"The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal," four justices wrote. "For no rational reason the marriage laws of the commonwealth discriminate against a defined class; no amount of tinkering with language will eradicate that stain. The bill would have the effect of maintaining and fostering a stigma of exclusion that the Constitution prohibits."
Constitutional amendments such as that sought by the bigots and Bible-thumpers are not easy to come by in Massachusetts: First, the proposal has to get the support of at least 1/4 of state legislators at a Constitutional Convention (a joint session of the Legislature organized to consider the proposed amendment) in two consecutive sessions of the Legislature and then be passed on a statewide referendum. Last year it passed the Convention - this year it did not, thanks to some hard lobbying and the admission of at least one legislator that he changed his mind after same-sex marriages started and, well, life went on as usual and society did not rip itself apart in raging controversy.

That the amendment failed is a measure of how far we've come; that a legislator could be surprised that same-sex marriage did not bring about the collapse of civil society is a measure of how far we have yet to go.

But for the moment: HOORAY!

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