On Tuesday January 2nd, The Massachusetts Legislature will re-convene for Constitutional Convention which will decide the fate of the Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Amendment. It can go many ways and each is still up in the air. Last week's Supreme Judicial Court Decision which stated that the Legislature has a duty to vote but there is no remedy for those who do not vote except for the unhappy electorate to express its discontent at the ballot box, did not help.
The LGBT and supporters of Equality which include the 109 Legislators who voted for a recess on November 9th see Tuesday's responsibility imposed to kill this amendment now and finally with an adjournment vote. Historically, a vote to recess then a vote to adjourn successfully killed a liberal ballot initiative back in 1990 in Massachusetts. This ballot question would have given the Massachusetts voters the opportunity to protect on a state level a woman's right to reproductive freedom in case Roe vs. Wade were overturned. Well, the conservatives, many of whom are angry now about same-sex marriage, revelled in this procedural strategy then.
There is also, of course, the strategy of the Legislators "just not showing up." This has also been done before, directly to stop a ballot initiative and indirectly due to complacent legislators. So, a quorum strategy may also be in the works.
Then there is the "dreaded" yes or no vote which is a very real possibility. The SJC reading last week may have pushed some Legislators to want to vote on the merits of the amendment. And yes, Romney's influence (even post mortem), Kris Mineau's pathetic lawsuit which only has symbolic and annoyance benefits, and VoteOnMarriage's "Dead or Alive" Style Wanted posters which have the Legislator's photos and home phone numbers and are being distributed in districts and towns known for higher crime rates are weighing on the minds of many a Senator and Representative. Of course, the "conservatives" have perfected scare tactics and even Massachusetts is not immune to them.
My observations of Tuesday's Constitutional Convention's outcome...If this amendment is killed procedurally by adjournment or non-quorum, same-sex marriage in Massachusetts will be saved. However, the repercussion from the other side will be tremendous at first, potentially more lawsuits, with guaranteed press opportunities galour for Mineau, Cardinal O'Malley, Romney and others. With Deval Patrick in office, there is a potential, a good one, for the public focus to be quickly directed away from marriage.
If there is a yes or no vote, we will probably lose and the amendment will move to another Constitutional Convention in the Spring. Many say that we will win in the Spring because the climate, the corner office and the Legislature have changed significantly. So if by chance Tuesday is disappointing and we lose (remember the anti-gay side only needs 50 votes), then we have work to do and we need to start immediately. A disappointing outcome MUST NOT direct you to burn bridges with Legislators who refused to undertake a procedural adjournment. Some in our LGBT leadership and our gay press have been a little too critical of some legislators after the November 9th vote and we need to work with these Legislators who are right now committing to voting against allowing the amendment to go to "The People."
Each of the lobbies ours and theirs, thinks it has the strategy all figured out. As we saw with the SJC decision, each side claimed victory and after Tuesday, each side will "know what to do." In politics, every day is different and nothing is black and white--especially when we are dealing with 200 very different legislators, all who come from a different mindset. The only person who will win on Tuesday no matter the outcome is Mitt Romney. If we win, he says that he did all he could do and is awarded a Purble Heart by the conservatives. If the anti-gays win, well Romney takes home a Golden Globe.
Tom Lang, Director