The longer we have marriage equality in Massachusetts, the more people get used to it. About 5000 same sex couples have gotten hitched so far, and all is calm — the dire predictions of the Catholic Bishops and the Christian right not withstanding. Even people who didn’t like the idea, are realizing that same sex marriage does not affect anyone but the same sex couples who marry, and harms no one. So people are turning their attention to the things that do matter — things like health care, jobs, education, and the environment. Social change does not come easily, but it comes. It just takes some getting used to.
The quarterly Bay State Poll published last week found that more that 50% said that they do not want the legislature to put the proposed Constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage on the ballot in 2006.
The times they are a changin’ in the Bay State.
Last year, the legislature sitting in joint session as a constitutional convention, passed an amendment to the state constitution that would ban same sex marriage, but legalize civil unions by a vote of 105-92.
The amendment needs to get at least 101 votes (a majority of the 200 member legislature) this year in order to be sent to the voters for ratification in 2006. The nose counters say that if the vote on the amendment were taken today, it would pass. But the political circumstances continue to change.
State Senate President Robert Travaglini, with the concurrence of Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees, has postponed a vote on the amendment until at least the Fall. It was originally to have been held this Spring. This is significant because Travaglini and Lees are the cosponsors of the amendment.
It is worth recalling that no state legislator lost their seat last year due to the much-feared voter backlash against gay marriage — which didn’t materialize. What’s more, there were three pro-marriage equality pick-ups. And the three upcoming special elections to fill the open seats of conservative democrats who resigned, may very well result in supporters of marriage equality winning seats vacated by opponents.
Meanwhile, The Springfield Republican — the daily paper serving the third largest city in the state, reports that opponents of marriage equality from both parties are having second thoughts. While I am not making any predictions about the vote — much could change between now and then — listen to Republican Minority Leader Lees and Stephen J. Buoniconti, a junior Democratic state senator, as they publicly reconsider:
“Lees said yesterday the Legislature is focusing on other issues such as approval of stem cell research, the state budget and creating jobs.”
“Lees said he will more than likely continue to support the amendment, but he is keeping an open mind.”
“‘Everyone should review it,'” Lees said. ‘I’m certainly looking at it.’ Lees said he is leery of taking away marriage rights from same-sex couples.”
“Gay marriage was deemed legal under a ruling by the state Supreme Judicial Court Nov. 18, 2003. About 5,000 gay marriages have occurred in Massachusetts since May 17.”
“Sen. Stephen J. Buoniconti, D-West Springfield, who voted in favor of the amendment last year, said yesterday he expects to vote in support again, but he is reconsidering his position.”
“Buoniconti said he also is disturbed that if the amendment becomes law, it could nullify gay marriages that occurred in the meantime.”
“‘I don’t think we should be stripping them of their marriage license,’ Buoniconti said. ‘That doesn’t make sense to me.'”
Interestingly, State Attorney General Tom Reilly, who wants to be the Democratic nominee for governor, is also reconsidering his support fot the amendment — and sounds alot like Lees and Buoniconti.
“‘Once rights are given, they should not be taken away,” Reilly told The Boston Globe.
“Reilly would not take a position on whether a proposed constitutional amendment should go before the ballot, saying he defers to the Legislature to make that decision. He also said he still holds a personal belief that marriage is between a man and a woman… ‘We all have evolved as a state,’ he said… This is not a change in my beliefs. I have been consistent. What has changed is that May 17 came and went, and people entered into marriage. . . . No one has been hurt.'”
“Reilly added: ‘You couldn’t help but be moved by the commitments and marriages that people have entered into.'”