Friday, June 15, 2007

How progress is made

From Pam Belluck's story on the vote by the Massachusetts legislature, refusing to send a measure that would ban same-sex marriage to the voters. Speaking of Gale Candaras, a state senator who changed her vote on the issue:

"Most moving, she said, were older constituents who had changed their views after meeting gay men and lesbians. One woman had 'asked me to put it on the ballot for a vote, but since then a lovely couple moved in,' Ms. Candaras said. 'She said, "They help me with my lawn, and if there can’t be marriage in Massachusetts, they’ll leave and they can’t help me with my lawn.”'"


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how to react to your quote from Sen. Candaras, or how TONE itself reacts to the quote, but it reminds me of the old joke about a battle between the Soviets and the Nazis over a plot of land on the border between the Soviet Union and Nazi-controlled Poland. Having fought to a stalemate, the two commanders decided that more fighting was not going to decide the question, so they decided to ask the peasant who owned the land whether he would rather remain in Mother Russia or live in the Fatherland. To the Soviet commander's amazement, the peasant chose Poland. When the Soviet commander asked the peasant why, the peasant apologized, "But the winters are so cold in the Soviet Union...."

Massachusetts residents will neither become more or less hospitable to gays whether the state calls their unions "marriage," "civil unions," "domestic partnerships," "families," or nothing at all. Nor is it likely that the constituent's neighbors will need to leave the state if marriage was defined as it has always been defined. Frankly, I see no reason for the state getting involved in regulating the domestic relations of two people at all unless there is some "state interest" at stake.

TONE's earlier posting on the subject was correct, which was that the citizens of the Commonwealth were properly being asked about the definition of an institution which they created (marriage). The decision of the Constitutional Convention on June 14 was a defeat for democracy, not a victory for "equality."

By the way, where did this proposition that "It's wrong to vote on rights" come from? I wish it had been in effect when the U. S. decided to abolish my right to be taxed by the national government only on a per capita basis and instead ushered in a federal income tax with the 16th amendment. Where was the marriage equality/right to marry movement when we really needed them?

The Old New Englander said...

The comment cited is a symbol of the way in which individual experiences are powerful in changing public perceptions. The anti-marriage forces in Massachusetts lost in large measure because the public has moved on. Most people in the state have seen that the sky has not fallen because of gay marriage; they have other things to worry about.

As for the difference between civil unions (for some people) and marriage (for some people), the Supreme Court answered that in 1954: separate but equal is inherently unequal. If states want to get out of the marriage business and perform civil unions for everyone--leaving marriage to religious institutions for those who elect to have them in addition to a civil ceremony, fine. But to single out one group for a different status, even if it's only in name, is invidious discrimination. And, if it is only a name, why not use "marriage?"

As to the 16th Amendment, it was passed by both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures. How much democracy do you need? (The Amendment was made necessary because the Supreme Court--reactionary then as now--mis-construed the Constitution.)

Anonymous said...

I think TONE's analytical powers are failing. Leaving aside the inaptness of "the sky has not fallen" metaphor and the "separate but equal" analogy, his last paragraph is exactly the point: the Supreme (Judicial) Court got it wrong, and the chattering classes of Massachusetts wouldn't give the people the opportunity to get it right. Further, whether you think the 1895 Supreme Court misconstrued the framers' intent or not, by 1913 the people collectively were willing to give the federal government more extensive powers of taxation than the framers may have envisioned. It was the new decision of the people that made an income tax constitutional, not a court decision.

It remained to be seen whether the people of Massachusetts wanted to expand the definition of marriage or not, and I believed TONE endorsed this view when he commented on the lawsuit that required legislators to stop ducking the issue last December.

The Old New Englander said...

My point was that the 16th Amendment was adopted by legislative votes, and the marriage amendment in Massachusetts was rejected by legislative votes. Neither was subject to a referendum. In the one case, a decision of the Supreme Court was overridden by legislative action, in the other and attempt to override a decision was rejected; in both instances, however, the legislative process--that is, representative democracy--was followed. I see no problem.