Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Politics Is Local: The Gay Marriage Debate in Massachusetts

The outgoing governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts wants to be the president of the United States. And, since Mitt Romney is running as a Republican, that means he needs to prove to the religious-right wing of his party that he’s socially conservative enough for the job. This means that whatever he said about gays to get elected governor of Massachusetts (hint: rather moderate in tone), they are Public Enemy #1 now.

Romney’s parting shot as governor and opening salvo as presidential candidate was to sue the state legislature in an attempt to force them to vote on a proposed amendment to ban gay marriage. While he lost the case, the court chastised the legislature for failing to vote. Yesterday, the legislature voted to advance the measure, taking it one step closer to getting it on the 2008 ballot. Should this proposed amendment pass, it would be asking voters to write discrimination into our state’s constitution.

Having grown up in a religiously conservative home, I understand the arguments against gay marriage. The Bible does not applaud homosexuality; indeed it numbers with the offenses punishable by death in the Old Testament. Since the religious right in this country seems to primarily concern itself with issues of sexuality, I am not the least bit surprised that this issue is a big one for that community.

OK, so religiously conservative Christians don’t like homosexuality. They think it is a sin. But does this mean that they get to legislate according to their religious views? Marriage in this country is a secular institution. It always has been. The Puritans were trying to escape the Sacraments, and so they established a marriage based on a social contract. By allowing same-sex couples to enter into this social contract, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not violating the Sacrament of Marriage. Instead it is bestowing the economic and social rights wrongly denied to an entire group of people. It is rectifying an injustice. This makes everyone freer.

Gay marriage is a civil rights issue. As such, it should not be up for a vote. Think Brown v. Board of Education if you need an example—do you think that the South would have voted to desegregate schools, or that they should have had the right to vote to keep African-Americans as second-class citizens? The same is true of the right for gays to marry. Their marriages have not damaged a single heterosexual union in Massachusetts. The state legislature needs to end this bigoted attempt to write discrimination into the state constitution.


dive said...

What the fuck is it with America?
Land of the free, my arse!
Civil rights? Hah!
Even in this crappy country we have gay marriage (and gay clergy) and abortion on demand. Because they are part of a human being's right to choose for themselves.
As you say: a civil rights issue.
Fuck Romney and fuck the religious right. They're just arrogant, bigoted, self-righteous shitheads. Let 'em believe what they like, and live by their own rules should they choose to, but don't let 'em try and force it on anyone else.
(Apologies for the swear-fest, but I'm fucking angry).

Sassy Sundry said...

Your swearing is forgiven. I had to take a couple of steps back not to swear myself.

Carissa said...

Regardless of one's position on the "vote on gay marriage" issue, the legistlature was in the wrong to refuse to do the jobs which they were voted into office to do....which is vote on issues which are brought before them by the people of the Commonwealth.

I don't understand why they couldn't just vote and vote against it if they thought it was wrong instead of looking like a bunch of pansies and dismissing sessions before they got to that issue.

Sassy Sundry said...

"Looking like pansies" here, Carissa? Ouch.

The point is that they could have continued to say that they weren't going to vote to discriminate. If the issue was to take away the right to interracial marriage (the target of that 1906 law Mitt was so fond of citing), they wouldn't have voted for that, either.

It is a civil rights issue.

Carissa said...

Please understand that my use of the term "pansies" was in no way meant to be (homo)sexually charged. It was meant to communicate that they didn't have enough of a spine to stand up and do what they were supposed to be doing….that they were weak.

If they had released an official statement saying that they were not going to vote to discriminate, I think that would have been a appropriate conscientious objector-type way to deal with the situation. Instead they were trying to sneak out the back which I find reprehensible.

Robyn said...

While it is a civil rights issue, it's tangled up in so many deeper issues that are hot buttons right now. I have never understood why the religious right has always been so publicly focused on sexual issues while they seem to ignore so many others.

It's an interesting debate, and it isn't likely to end soon, even with the Massachusetts vote. There are 49 other states that argue about it on and off.

Sassy Sundry said...

Understood, Carissa. I know you didn't mean anything by it.
I merely pointed it out to show that discrimination is more embedded in our culture than we realize.

In answer to your point, they haven't exactly been silent about their refusal to vote on it. The statements from the legislators have been pretty open about their reasons for not voting on it. It just wasn't good enough for Mitt, who wants to run. Of course, Deval could have done more during the campaign than he did yesterday to support the rights of gays, but such is politics.

Robyn, I don't get it either. I really wish that we could leave the bedroom alone and focus on things that have a real impact on our society.

Before Girl said...

At the very least, denying their right to marriage also violates the laws that straight couples have-such as being able to make medical decisions for your loved one, become the legal parent of your kids, even being allowed to see your loved one in a hospital if a matter comes up of "spouses and relatives only" visits.

I am SO with you Dive.

Carissa-true, they should have voted and voted to dismiss it. I just don't get this dance contest between the governor and the legislature. Aren't they supposed to get along?

I agree with Robyn as well-why does the religious right always focus on the more prurient issues in a society? (Prurient-Inordinately interested in matters of sex; lascivious) I don't care what people are doing in the bedroom, the kitchen, the basement, whatever. If it's two consenting adults, fine.

RICH said...

Sassy it seems you've struck a nerve with "dive" on this issue. I don't think i've ever seen him so upset about an issue like this one. one second thought maybe when he turned 48 he was as pissed off.

Welcome to the good ole U.S. of A dive.

Old Knudsen said...

Don't believe the hype Dive.
What has the bible got to do with anything? I'm sick of that being used as an excuse for things, when the war goes bad they go after the mexicans, then when they show strength they go after the gheys and abortion. The US doesn't believe in giving it's people the right to choose as what do the people know? while you live under my roof you'll follow my rules. The more the bible is used to bash it's citizens and the more the US funds then overthrows dictators the more I believe the name 'The Great Satan'.

Sassy Sundry said...

Before Girl, to me this is the main reason to allow it. Who is the state to say who can provide this kind of care and the like? I do think that by not voting on it, they were sending a message---a clear one that it wasn't worth a vote.

Rich, stick around. I'm sure he'll get even more angry if they pass it (which I hope they don't).

Knudsen, I am so sick of the whole violation of the separation of church and state here that I could just scream.

dive said...

A sleepy man who's calmed down a bit writes:

I was just re-reading Alexis de Toqueville (Democracy In America) in bed and found that in 1835, he had this to say on the subject of the "American Peoples" (the nations we now call Native Americans):
"The social state of those Peoples differed in several respects from what one saw in the Old World: one would have said that they had multiplied freely in the heart of their wilderness, having no contact with races more "civilised" than theirs.
(He) owed nothing except to himself; his virtues, his vices, his prejudices were his own work : the independence of his nature."

How far we have fallen since we invaded their country …

Anonymous said...

this whole gay marriage-thing is bullshit, the only posivite point with all this is that my Gay marriage-stocks are up 20% today

Sassy Sundry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sassy Sundry said...

My last comment got a bit jumbled.

Dive, de Toqueville knew what he was talking about, didn't he? And it's OK to be angry.

Anonymous, I'm not sure what you are getting at here. My initial response was that you weren't contributing anything constructive. I've heard about the "gay" stocks (personally I think that whole concept is crass---not all gay people are in to luxury cars and other fancy items). They went up after the announcement? Are you in favor of the amendment or aren't you?

Bock the Robber said...

The religious right in every country are always obsessed with sexual matters.

We had the bastards over here for years trying to run the place (and succeeding for a long time) so we know all about religious zealots.

Politicians, likewise, always avoid the issue. It's in their nature.

Just a point about the "pansies" thing: most gay people I know aren't that sensitive. I call them much worse things than that, and they call me terrible things in return.

You can carry PC much too far. Some people go around looking to be offended.

james said...

Sorry to drop in so late. I've been working on a post on the topic myself. To the question of what the Bible has to do with anything, well . . . if you're a practicing Christian it does matter to one's faith, and for the health of the church. But foisting the principles of one's faith upon the secular state I find very problematic.

I certainly wouldn't want the state to inform me on how to follow Christ, and thus I believe the church shouldn't inform the state how to govern their affairs in turn.

more on the topic later.

Sassy Sundry said...

Thanks for the comments, Bock and James. It is a scary business when one's personal life becomes the basis for governing.

James, I'm looking forward to the post.