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News :: GLBT/Queer
Massachusetts Constitutional Convention Moves Forward Amendment to Ban Gay Marriage but Create Civil Unions
01 Apr 2004
During the March 29 Constiutional Convention, the Massachusetts General Court moved forward a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage and establishing civil unions. As usual, there was much wrangling and maneuvering. There were protesters on both sides of the issue, although the crowds were much, much smaller today than in the earlier sessions, and we far outnumbered our opponents. The result isn't as we were hoping. However, there's some room for celebration as well. We lost one battle; the overall struggle continues. The ConCon must vote for the amendment again next year and then it has be approded bya popular vote in 2006. We were able to build support throughout the ConCon. And May 17, 2004: gay folks will get married in Massachusetts. The stuff that happened today doesn't affect that fact.
Reposted from http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/3/30/24842/9789 with the permission of the author.

A report from the MA ConCon
by MAJeff
Tue Mar 30th, 2004 at 02:48:42 GMT

As Phil has already reported, the Massachusetts General Court moved forward a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage and establishing civil unions. As usual, there was much wrangling and maneuvering. There were protesters on both sides of the issue. The result isn't as we were hoping. However, there's some room for celebration as well. Below are some thoughts and observations from someone who attended, yet again.

Diaries :: MAJeff's diary ::

The Scene

I missed the morning, as I had to teach a class. I arrived at around 12:30, took a quick walk around and went back to the T-stop to wait for students. My Social Movements class took a field trip to the Statehouse to watch the protest. Honestly, there wasn't a heck of a lot to see.

The crowds were much, much smaller today than in the earlier sessions, and we far outnumbered our opponents. There was the usual "Sodomy is a sin" and that sort of garbage, but there just weren't a lot of the bigots outside today.

Our side was smaller, too. But not much. I'd say we had around a 3-1 advantage in the protestors outside. There was some great creativity. For instance, one sign said something like "The Vatican is profiting off sinful homo art" below a list of art created by historical artists known to have "homosexual tendencies". Another read: " DESTROY THE COMPUTER! IT'S A HOMOSEXUAL INVENTION BY ALAN TURING. WHO CARES IF HE CRACKED THE GERMAN ENIGMA CODE AND WON WORLD WAR II. IT'S A HOMO'S DEVIL MACHINE." Quite entertaining.

Inside was a different matter altogether. It was packed, and this time the different sides were intermingled, rather than separate. Many attempts to chant and sing over each other. This time, I didn't participate. Part of that was because I was with students. Part of it was I wasn't too sure I could be civil with some of the bigots on the other side. So, my students and I headed down to the Great Hall to watch debate.

The Maneuvering

This was the final reading of the amendment for this year. It could only be amended twice, so there was a bit of maneuvering to see which amendments would be heard in what order. The order mattered, because if one amendment passed, then only one more could be approved.

The first amendment was sponsored by Senate President Travaglini. It basically added language about current federal law, clarifying that none of the federal benefits associated with marriage would flow to civil unions, but allowing for the possibility that if federal law were to change to make such benefits available, they would then flow to couples with civil unions. Measure passed, 118-81.

Brian Lees moves to reconsider (forcing another vote) and Travaglini accepts, after a voice vote. A second vote to approve, would take up the second amendment. That means, voting would go on to the final amendment.

Prior to the vote, however, Rep. Roberts (boo hiss) talks about how this amendment might trample on the rights of churches, forcing them to perform marriages. A completely dishonest argument, and either Roberts is too dumb to realize it, or it's a strategy--I'm guessing the latter. Byron Rushing and others object, and later Rushing clarifies the objection saying the language in the amendment wouldn't have exempted religious institutions, which are already exempted. It would, however, have allowed Town Clerks and other state employees to refuse on religious grounds. Rushing brings up a great parallel--this would be similar to a meat inspector saying, "I won't inspect pork because I'm Muslim." Not acceptable. (The idiot Marie Parente tries to make some points with Rushing, but she, as usual, makes absolutely no sense. The woman truly is crazy.)

The second vote on the Travaglini amendment then comes. It passes, 111-86.

Now, we're on to debate on final passage. The early portion is mainly people saying "look at the record to see how people voted, how they changed their votes. This was their strategy to try and kill this." Well, duh! Our supporters have been fairly open about that. Silly arguments.

The next several speakers, though, engage in amazing rhetoric. Marian Walsh (from West Roxbury) was stunning. She asks the body "How many of your constitutional rights are you willing to give up? That's what you're doing today." She's quite moving. It's also surprising, to a degree. Coming into the ConCon, no one knew where she would stand, especiallly since she's from West Roxbury--a very traditional Irish Catholic part of the city.

Liz Malia, Marie St. Fleur, Bryan Joyce, Cynthia Stone Cream and some other folks I'm forgetting are also quite stirring. Paul Loscocco gets up and announces he's voting against--he's been a leader among House Republicans in trying to bar same-sex marriage. I still think he's an odious little troll, but at least he voted right here.

The final vote: Amedment passes 105-92.

FIVE VOTES

I don't know if people realize how amazing the final vote really is. The amendment passed by five votes. A month ago, we were lucky to number 55 people among our supporters. On March 11, we were able to muster 77. Today we had 92. A couple years ago, the Senate passed domestic partner benefits for State employees, but did it by a voice vote because no one wanted to go on the record. Today we only lost by five votes. We lost, yes. But we lost one battle; the overall struggle continues. We were able to build support throughout the ConCon. At the beginning, I gave us no chance of beating the amendment. We picked up supporters throughout the process. We only lost by 5 votes.

A Pep Rally

This was perhaps the most amazing part of the day. After the final vote, people were obviously upset. Some devastated. Several hundred of us moved to the Nurses' Hall of the Statehouse for a pep rally. A pep rally? Yup. Spirits were actually pretty high. One thing that has come out of this is a much more energized community of LGBT people and our supporters. We all realized that this episode had been lost, but the struggle goes on--and we'll keep coming back until we have full equality.

The first guy to talk was someone from the Freedom to Marry Coalition (didn't catch his name). He introduced Jarrett Barrios. The place exploded. I'm gonna blow the speeches, so I'm not gonna try and reproduce them. Just some highlights.

After Barrios, it was Mary Buonauto (God, I hope I spelled her name right) of GLAD, who was the lead litigator in Goodridge. Very impassioned speech. And a reminder. May 17, 2004: gay folks will get married in Massachusetts. The stuff that happened today doesn't affect that fact. (I know Romney wants to try for another stay--ain't gonna happen.)

Then Arlene Isaacson--my hero! She's the main lobbyist for MGLPC. Another impassioned speech. A "rally the troops for the upcoming battles" type of thing.

Then came the legislators. I don't remember how many talked, and I'll screw up if I try to name all of them, but here are a few: Liz Malia, Diane Wilkerson, Byron Rushing, Bryan Joyce, Stan Rosenberg, Cynthia Creem, Robert Havern, Richard Tisei, Susan Tucker, Ruth Balser, Marie St. Fleur, Sal DiMasi, Michael Festa, Patricia Jehlen, Rachel Kaprielian, Shaun Kelley, Kay Khan, Mark Montigney, Doug Peterson, Kathi-Anne Reinstein, Frank Smizik, Alice Wolf. And that's just a sampling!

Some highlights. Stan Rosenberg is a talker! But, he noted how on the first day of the ConCon, there was a group of about 8 people--Barrios, himself, Arlene Isaacson, and others--strategizing about how to try and beat this back. That grew so that by the end of the first installment, there were 55 solid supporters. By the end of March 11, we had 77. Today, 92. That's growth! That's a result of organizing. It's also the result of something many, many people said: LGBT people honestly and openly telling the truth about our lives.

Marie St. Fleur reiterated that. She pointed to one member of the crowd and said that this person changed her heart. She voted on our side (consistently) because of this one person, and the impact he had on her life.

That theme kept coming up, again and again. Along with the fact that we have made amazing progress over the course of this ConCon. And the fact that this is but one step, requiring more organizing, through this election and beyond.

A light moment came when Mark Montigney was speaking. From the upper balcony, Jarrett Barrios yells out, "Mark Montigney, marry me!" The response--"I've been avoiding getting married for years and nothing about today changes that!"

Mike Festa: "These were the easiest votes I've ever taken."

Patricia Jehlen was incredibly moving. The end of her talk had her, me, and many others in tears. She said (paraphrasing) "I'm celebrating my 35th anniversary this year. People are saying that same-sex marriage doesn't affect my marriage. They're wrong. Seeing the ways that I've taken for granted what other people are trying so hard to get has made my marriage more special!"

Now, on to the election and the 2005 ConCon!

Previous Boston IMC articles on this issue:
http://boston.indymedia.org/feature/display/20168/index.php
http://boston.indymedia.org/feature/display/19654/index.php
http://boston.indymedia.org/feature/display/19615/index.php
http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/18301

This work licensed under a
Creative Commons license.
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Comments

point of clarifiation
01 Apr 2004
A point of clarification for those who aren't following this closely on something that isn't entriely clear from the above. This is just the first step in getting the amendment passed. The ConCon has to approve it again next year. Then it goes up for a popular vote in 2006. Plenty of time to mobilize against it--especially after gay marriage becomes the law of the land this May and people realize, after two years of gay marriage, that society has not collapsed.
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