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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Business As Usual

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; ...I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority.
Henry David (1817–1862), On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849).

In 1803, I had the happy idea of transcribing the debates in the Houses of Parliament, with the thought that people might enjoy hearing the deliberations that would affect their lives, and began a regular supplement to my pamphlets called The Political Register. I continued with this until 1810, when I was jailed for objecting to a flogging of an enlisted man, and rapidly sold my franchise to Thomas Curzon Hansard in 1811, and Hansard’s is the parliamentary record to this day. My only criticism of Mr. Hansard is that he allowed members to ‘correct’ their statements – I thought the point of transcribing the debates was to catch them in intemperate remarks.

So, it was with the sensation of settling into a comfortable chair that I listened and jotted down the debate in your Massachusetts House yesterday on the subject of . As before, I do not pretend to a verbatim record, now available elsewhere thanks to me, but a record of the sense of the remarks.

Sen. Brian Lees began the Convention with a brief description of the history of the legislation, and then stated that today, he would no longer vote for his own amendment as the situation had changed so radically over the past 18 months.

Rep. Lida Harkins quoted John F. Kennedy on the absolute separation of church and state (not in the Constitution, but rather a notion of that Deist, Jefferson), Gandhi on violence, and distinguished atheist Robert Ingersoll – and we will return to that quote later.

Rep. Travis spoke as the person who first set these wheels in motion before Sen. Traviglini and Speaker Finneran amended his straightforward definition of marriage petition. He stated that he would not be voting for this amendment, but was instead pinning his faith 0n a new petition drive, recently certified by the Attorney General, which would preserve his original language, and would allow the voters to have their say in 2008. He was the only speaker to mention the electorate of the Commonwealth for most of the debate.

Sen. Augustus rose to say that Massachusetts is out of step with the rest of the nation today even as it was during the Revolution and when it was the center of Abolitionists, and that we must demonstrate our tolerance.

Rep. Byron Rushing rose to point out that marriage was a civil institution, insofar as it pertains to the state, and that “you can break all of the Ten Commandments and still get married”. Porcupine thinks that the Seventh would be difficult in that circumstance. He also pointed out that in the 1780’s, a judge ruled that the Massachusetts Constitution prohibited slavery, so when the first census was taken in 1790, Massachusetts was the only state with no slaves, based on a ONE judge vote! He did not say if there was any organized effort to oppose this decision, as there is with gay marriage. Rep. Rushing said that, “Those of us standing ready to vote against this amendment because we believe in the constitution and democracy and civil institutions - we do not need your vote to win.” Rep. Rushing did not explain how preventing the electorate from voting was a Victory for Democracy.

Rep. Loscocco rose to echo Porcupine’s sentiments of last July, and suggested that it is time to change word ‘marriage’ to ‘civil union’ across the board

Rep. Teehan rose to read a letter from Rep. Tom Kennedy, confined to a hospital bed and unable to attend (one of only two vacancies – Rep. Michael Coppola has recently died) urging his colleagues to vote against the amendment.

Sen. Barrios finally tackled the tough question and asked – why no vote? “The polls say two-thirds do not support gay and lesbian marriage. If that’s the case, it is said, let’s just have the people vote. Let’s have a campaign and have it out. Those who say let the people vote would like to spend a lot of money to make their point, commercials on TV, ads in newspapers, and political debates so they can say those 6,500 couples are different enough that we should stop the right going forward and allow no more marriages of this sort.” He stated that he is concerned that his young son would be teased and bullied during a vigorous political battle, and would have his feelings hurt. He also said, “The Constitution says electorate should not decide, but rather the legislature which should not be a rubber stamp”. It would seem there is scant danger of the Legislature acting according to the will of the electorate in Massachusetts.

A nervous Rep. Carl Scortino arose and informed the Chamber that he was honored to be one of the few ‘’ members to serve. It took Porcupine a moment to puzzle out that he meant ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered’. Rep. Scortino did not inform us which quadrant he fell into. He said it was a great opportunity to have the chance to vote against the amendment.

Then, at 2:45 p.m. on May 6th, 2005, BY ROLL CALL VOTE 39 – 157 MARRIAGE AMENDMENT REJECTED. The voters of would be denied the opportunity to vote on this matter as has been done in 30 other states.

You may recall that Porcupine mentioned that we would return to Rep. Harkins’ quote from Robert Ingersoll. Looking solemnly out into the Chamber, she intoned, “I am inferior to every person whose rights I have trampled on.

Thus did Rep. Harkins confess the superiority of the Electorate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


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