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    November 09, 2006

    Victory in Massachusetts!

    Posted by: Chris

    Delegates to the Constitutional Convention Massachusetts have just voted 109-87 to recess the "ConCon" until Jan. 2, 2007, the last day of the current legislative session. That means the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the only state we have it is, for the time being, dead in the water.

    Victory By voting a recess, rather than an adjournment, delegates effectively blocked outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney (R) from calling the ConCon back into session. The procedural vote, by a simple majority, accomplished what a vote on the amendment itself could not. It would have taken 151 out of 200 votes to kill the amendment on a direct vote.

    Expect lots of braying from conservatives about how democracy has been short-changed because delegates didn't vote directly on the amendment and voters are being deprived of a ballot measure. Of course, these are the same folks who complain that "judicial activists" unfairly steal the marriage issue from "democratically-elected legislators" — who, incidentally, are the ones who just agreed to this procedural motion.

    (Photo via Bay Windows Blog)



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    1. Terrance on Nov 10, 2006 12:12:43 AM:

      That news is a relief, because there's something that bothers me about this clamor to put marriage to a majority vote; not just a legislative vote but actual ballot initiatives, eschewing the courts as a means for minorities to gain justice despite the will of the majority. I guess it's because as an African American with some knowledge of my history, I understand the role the courts played in civil rights advances that contribute to the life I enjoy today; changes that might not have happened until much later otherwise, causing people to have to suffer injustice longer.

      I know the courts alone cannot bring about progress but, as I just read in What God Has Joined Together: A Christian Case for Gay Marriage, attitudes tend to follow social practice. The percentage of Americans supporting integration increased after Brown v. Board of Education, and interracial contact increased after the passage of the 1964 civil rights act. And in Massachusetts, after the state Supreme Court decision, support for marriage has gone up.

      The courts cannot mandate what people think of me and my family, but they can mandate how people and institutions treat me and my family. I'm much more comfortable with that than with the idea that my civil rights must be approved by majority vote, because what the majority gives it can also take away, more easily than the courts, while also giving us less of an opportunity to plead our case to all of the countless "judges" involved.

    1. Citizen Crain on Nov 10, 2006 11:46:51 AM:

      Of course the civil rights of a minority should never be put up for majority vote. But our system, for the most part, allows it. In Massachusetts and some other states, it is supposed to be unconstitutional to overturn a court decision by amending the state's constitution. But that's not the case in most jurisdictions, or with the U.S. Constitution.

      The courts were clearly successful, as you point out, in changing racial attitudes, but the timing was everything. They weren't too far out in front of the populace. Our experience with the last decade is that in most states, judicial recognition of our right to marry is too far out in front of the populace, so the New Jersey court's approach is probably more lastingly effective.

    1. Terrance on Nov 11, 2006 2:23:09 AM:

      It's ironic really. At a time when encouraging people to make deeper commitments to their families and communities might contribute to solving a few problems, we're actually penalized for doing so. And it's probably going to be that way for a long time to come.

      My son will be four years old on Friday. Chances are he'll reach adulthood before our family has the same rights and protections as even the rest of the families on our block. He'll grow up without the benefit of those rights and protections, as a result of having us as parents.

      And there isn't much we can do about it, except hope that we never actually need those protections. And there isn't much we can do if we do end up needing them, except hope that our legal documents are recognized.

      Given all of that, and the odds that we face in finding committed relationships and building families. It's a wonder that we bother at all. I guess that's what we get for not waiting for everyone else to catch-up before getting on with living our lives.

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