Just before leaving my apartment today for a meeting and errands, I read that in a constitutional convention, Massachusetts’ legislators voted 157-39, a margin of more than 4-1, against a proposed constitutional amendment which would overturn that state’s Goodridge decision mandating gay marriage, but would also establish for civil unions for same-sex couples.
While I understand that some legislators may have voted for this amendment because they did not want the state to recognize even civil unions, I think this is most significant vote on gay marriage yet in the United States. More significant that the votes in both houses of the legislature in the Golden State for two primary reasons, the first, is that the Massachusetts legislature is closer to the people than that here (in California). Their House of Representatives has twice as many members as ours (160 vs. 80) while the state has one-fifth as many people.
The second reason is that legislators have had time to consider the measure. Because of Massachusetts’ rules for amending its constitution, a joint session of the legislature must pass an amendment in two consecutive sessions before sending it to the voters. Legislators first voted on this last year.
I have long believed that we must trust legislatures — and to the people of the various states — to deal with the issue of marriage. While I believe that Goodrich was wrongly decided, the elected legislators of the Bay State have had now voted on gay marriage. Given that legislative districts there are much smaller than they are here in California, those legislators are closer to the people and thus, less in thrall to special interests than are our officials in California.
Moreover, in the year since they first voted, as legislators considered the issue, they also surely discussed it with their constituents. Perhaps, this truly does represent the will of the people in the Bay State. We could find out in 2008 should Massachusetts’ citizens succeed in placing an initiative on the ballot to amend the state’s constitution to bar gay marriage and civil unions altogether.
For now, it appears that gay marriage in Massachusetts is a reality. Let us hope that gay marriage advocates use their success here to move beyond the rhetoric of “rights” and talk about the meaning of marriage. Should they do that, they may well succeed in convincing other Americans of the merits of their cause.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com