High Noon for Gay Marriage
It began April 11, 2001, when seven gay couples filed suit to be issued marriage licenses. On July 21, 2001, petitions began circulating to enact a so-called ‘Super-DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act)’. After collecting over 100,000 signatures, ten times the amount necessary, the constitutional amendment was sponsored by Rep. Phil Travis (D-Rehoboth). House 4840 stated that a marriage was between a man and a woman, and that ‘no other legal relationship would be recognized’. Senate President Birmingham began his complicated series of evasions, calling and then adjourning Constitutional Conventions, or Con Cons, without allowing debate or a vote on the matter.
Right there, the first mistake was made.
The Legislature began a series of maneuvers to prevent the matter from ever coming to a vote. Because of the stringent nature of Rep. Travis’ language, it would also have prohibited domestic partnership benefits for unmarried heterosexual couples, which were offered by many employers like Fidelity, John Hancock. All of those voters would probably have voted against the Super DOMA, and the whole businesses would have ended there. Instead, Birmingham continued with his coy bait-and-switch, calling and rapidly adjourning Con Cons.
The Supreme Judicial Court acted upon the 2001 suit. It stated that in the absence of an amendment, there were no grounds to deny a marriage license, and gay marriage was created. At that point in 2002, the Legislature had to act, and after a series of amendments were offered by the ‘Leadership’ of the Legislature, a Hobson’s choice was created. By amending the original language, a choice was given between voting no and allowing gay marriage to continue by denying the 100,000 signatures a vote, or voting yes and stating that marriage was between a man and a woman, but civil unions would be created. This satisfied nobody. As Rep Travis said, nobody had signed a petition to create civil unions.
Now, it is five years later. Another 70,000 signatures have been gathered, and the Legislature has a straightforward DOMA in front of it. It was filed in a different form, so it only needs 50 votes to go to the electorate instead of 100. Today, Senate President Traviglini will decide if a vote will be taken.
It is time. Those who say that he should maneuver and prevent a vote, killing the measure for two more years, need to understand that this will not go away. More signatures will be collected, another petition filed. Those who say that the petition is unconstitutional because it seeks to change a court interpretation are deluded. The same SJC that created gay marriage in a split vote also unanimously voted that an attempt to change the Constitution in the manner specified in the Constitution is proper, even if it does invalidate their judgment. It does not matter if you support or deride gay marriage. It is a proper subject for a vote, and has been voted on in over 30 other states. Porcupine is of the opinion that the gay marriage amendment will be defeated by the electorate, but by a much narrower margin that it would have been had people been allowed to vote on it in 2001. After all, those companies who offered domestic partnership benefits have begn to cancel them, on the grounds that now everybody can get married, and so marriage is a prerequisite for dometic partnership. He cannot say the same margin will prevail if the vote is again denied by the Legislature. People are angry that their initiative petitions have been voided or changed - the tax rollback, clean elections, a variety of proposals from all sides of the spectrum. There is a chance they will vote their anger instead of their conscience.
If a Legislator votes to refuse to allow a vote by the electorate, what is he saying about the judgment of the electorate that saw fit to place him in office?
Note: At 5:30 pm that day, Sen. President Traviglini adjourned the Session, saying that there was 'too much to consider in a single day'. The Session had begun at 2 pm. Sen. Traviglini adjoured the Session until Nov. 9th - two days after the election, so that the membership would not have to go on record about this matter.