Sunday, September 18, 2005

Gay marriage tactics

So I know I've been writing a lot about gay marriage recently, but here's a another article about it in the Boston Globe (happily, with the headline "Gay marriage foes face hurdles as they push new amendment").

Things to chew on:
  • The (publicly available) names and addresses of all the people who sign the petition to put the anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot will be posted online at, here. I think this is reasonable: signing a petition is more than just voting; it's standing up and saying this is something I'm willing to go on record for. People should know when they sign it that their signatures will be a matter of public record. This could be an effective deterrant against signing if widely publicized - business owners may not want to risk a boycott, for example. Or, you could send letters to people who signed it to try to persuade them to change their minds. That being said, I do hope this doesn't turn into a nasty campaign of intimidation. So far it's been pretty good:
    Westerhoff [one of the organizers of] already introduced himself to one of the first petition signers, Madelyn Shields of Beverly. Shields told the Herald she found the meeting "a bit odd," but described Westerhoff as gracious. She said she hopes other exchanges between gay marriage advocates and petition signers are as gracious.
  • There's still no consensus on whether gay marriage opponents will have enough votes in the legislature in 2006 and 2007. They say they have enough now, but that could change, especially with lobbying persuasion.

  • One line from the Globe article is "Gay rights activists also say that civil rights should never be put to a popular vote." I agree, but would add that, as driftwood pointed out, in practice a defeat for the amendment in a popular vote would be a much greater defeat for the anti-gay marriage activists, politically speaking, than a defeat in legislature. The problem is, of course, that this assumes that the people will vote against it, and you don't want risk losing when civil rights shouldn't be subject to majoritarianism in the first place.

  • The first line of defense against the amendment is to be a court challenge to the effect that the Massachusetts state constitution bars ballot initiatives relating to the "reversal of a judicial decision." You can read the arguments here and here (PDFs) and the Attorney General's argument against them here. Now, I'm all for opposing this amendment on all fronts, but I don't really buy the argument. Although I'm not a lawyer, it seems fairly clear to me that the Goodridge decision was an interpretation of the state constitution, and "reversal of a judicial decision" only refers to the interpretation itself - it doesn't ban amending the constitution that was interpreted. Any lawyers out there who want to comment?


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