Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another step forward in Massachusetts

As predicted, a few hours ago the Massachusetts state legislature voted down the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. What's remarkable to me is the huge margin by which it failed: 157-39. 55 legislators switched their votes from last year from yes to no.

Alas, we can't get complacent about the next amendment, which could appear on ballots in 2008 if it gets more than 50 votes (out of 200) in two legislative sessions (one in 2006, one in 2007). The current amendment failed to get even 50 votes in its favor, but you have to remember that several legislators voted against this amendment despite opposing gay marriage because this amendment would have created civil unions, which they also oppose (the 2008 amendment doesn't create civil unions)*. On the other hand, some legislators voted for this amendment only because it's a compromise, and might vote against the 2008 amendment. So the vote-counting is quite tricky and it's still plausible that the 2008 amendment will receive the requisite 50 votes. For what it's worth, MassEquality is putting out the word that at least 115 of the "nay" votes were from genuine gay marriage supporters; the big question mark is what "at least" means and how that 35 vote gap will change over the next couple years.

But my previous post still stands, I think: public opinion in Massachusetts is trending toward greater support for gay marriage, so even if the 2008 amendment makes it to the ballot, it will be rejected by the voters.

*It still puzzles me why this is seen as a desirable strategy. Even if the 2008 amendment passes, it doesn't ban civil unions - it just doesn't create them. The legislature will then just turn right around and create civil unions through ordinary legislation, as Connecticut did last year. So the religious right doesn't really gain anything by this strategy, as far as I can tell.

Update, 15 Sept: According to today's Boston Globe story, gay marriage opponents have 60 legislators who are prepared to vote for the 2008 amendment. There's no election between now and May 10, 2006 (which is when the first vote is scheduled for) so we can probably expect it to pass the first vote. (Hopefully some will change their minds, but I have a feeling these 60 are mostly the "hard core.") After that, if the 2006 election follows the pattern of the 2004 election, some anti-gay marriage legislators could be tossed out of office for the 2007 vote, so the amendment might be stopped there. If not, I still think the voters will vote against the amendment in 2008. But we can't rest easy - there's still a long fight ahead.


Blogger driftwood said...

[But my previous post still stands, I think: public opinion in Massachusetts is trending toward greater support for gay marriage, so even if the 2008 amendment makes it to the ballot, it will be rejected by the voters.]

In some ways this would be best wouldn’t it? Short of the voters endorsing an amendment that made clear that gays were included, wouldn’t it be worthwhile if the voters rejected an amendment that excluded gays?

9/16/2005 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Yes, that's a good point - it would be a much more major win for the gay rights movement for the amendment to be rejected by a popular vote than for it to be rejected by the legislature. After all, the religious right will have run out of people to legitimately criticize in the former case, whereas in the latter case they will (as we've seen in California) start blathering about "activist legislators," never mind that these legislators were elected by and are accountable to the people.

9/16/2005 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger driftwood said...

Maybe Massachusetts could be a starting point for reversing the trend of states passing anti-marriage amendments. I worry that in the states that have passed them recently, public opinion might well turn, but it could still be hard to remove these amendments.

It would be good to see some voters vote them down.

9/17/2005 12:29:00 AM  
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