a bird and a bottle

Bad News Outta Boston
January 3, 2007, 12:13 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, law, news, politics

In a real twist-the-knife move, the Massachussetts legislature has voted to put a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage on the ballot next year. Currently the only state where same sex marriage is legal, the Massholes would be going against years of civil rights history if they took away a right that has already been granted. As a great Editorial in the Boston Globe points out,

In this case, a vote for the amendment is a vote to eliminate a civil right that is contained in the state Constitution — a shameful and perhaps unique reversal of the long forward march of civil rights progress, both locally and nationally. Each such vote is, as Governor-elect Deval Patrick said yesterday, “irresponsible and wrong.”

…And to what end? We are still waiting to hear of the first heterosexual couple whose marriage has been damaged by the more than 8,500 same-sex marriages performed here since 2004.

Pam Spaulding over at Shakespeare’s Sister (which like yours truly shares Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as its namesake) is at her angry best:

I don’t even know what kind of retrofuck jackhole piece-of-shit you’ve got to be to take away equal rights once they’ve been granted. I can’t begin to imagine how one even considers such a heinous move, but then again I’m not a RAGING FUCKING ASSHOLE.

I also happen to agree that marriage is not a threat to marriage, and I have this terrible habit of actually believing that “all [people] are created equal” means something.

I don’t know that there’s anything I can add to that, except to say that we can only hope that should this initiative make it onto the ballot, Massachussetts voters are smarter than their legislators – and less hateful. In my Constitutional Law class last year, my professor argued that the Massachussetts Supreme Court, in holding that same sex marriage is a constitutional right under the MA constitution (in Goodridge), had made a political mistake by foisting gay marriage on the legislature. He said that Vermont’s approach (now endorsed by the New Jersey Supreme Court) – which required the legislature to implement some sort of right providing the same benefits as heterosexual marriage to gay couples – would be more politically palatable because it would not be as judicially “activist.” I hated this argument. It assumed that marriage and civil unions are the same. Which clearly they’re not. But we are now seeing (as with abortion rights) that backlash can really be a bitch.

My proposed solution (hat tip to SF)? Take marriage away from the state completely. Make marriage a religious institution, which it was at its inception anyway, and allow the states to issue only civil union licenses, which could be had by any couple, gay or straight. This would remove all the hand-wringing about morality and sexuality from the political discourse (where it doesn’t belong anyway) and put it back in the hands of religious institutions (where it shouldn’t belong but always has). It would totally deflate the whole hateful “sanctity of marriage” argument often used to deny basic rights such as the ability to change one’s name (already onerous) without paying extra fees, or to be on a birth certificate, or to hold an ailing partner’s hand in the hospital. Because marriage could still be “sanctified” if an institution that deals in sanctity – a RELIGION – chose to make it so.

Anyway, it’s not a pragmatic solution in that it’s politically totally untenable – but it is a reasonable one (never a sign of success in American politics), and one that is more faithful (pun intended) to the church-state separation to which we are constitutionally bound.


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