Posted by gustav at 06:01PM, Friday, November 01st, 2002
Massachusetts Fails Us Yet Again
The Massachusetts Supreme Court declined the opportunity to make civil rights history today, and chose the spineless, bigoted way out. I'm still waiting to save up the cash we need to leave this allegedly "liberal" state, and for the legislature to adopt a new state motto: "Less Progressive than Belgium!"
What the court ruling said was that the Department of Public Health's denial of marriage licenses to homosexuals was in violation of the current constitution, and that the legislature has 180 days to come up with a constitutional solution. This ruling very clearly does not say that same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth is now legal. The justices could simply have ruled that marriage should be open to every pair of non-blood-related adults in the state, following the lead of civil rights pioneers British Columbia, Ontario, the Netherlands, and Belgium. They did not do so. The implication is that, in the Commonwealth, gays are not quite equal enough to deserve the same rights as heterosexuals.
Although the media has been reporting it as such, this is not a ground-breaking ruling. It follows four other very similar ones in such bastions of progressivism as Alaska, each of which found that banning same-sex marriage violated the state constitution. Hawaii and Alaska, after their supreme court rulings, amended their state constitutions to make marriage rights available only to heterosexuals. Vermont was widely derided by the fascist neocon movement for enacting its version of separate-but-unequal, otherwise known as the Civil Unions legislation, signed into law by Governor Howard Dean.
I feel certain the neocons will make a tremendous fuss over today's ruling, falsely claiming both that it is groundbreaking, and that it legalizes homosexual marriage. Neither of these assertions is true. The best we can reasonably hope for is the same sort of weak legislation that Vermont has, which stops well short of real marriage, in both name and effect, lest the breeders be offended that their well-defended institution were being assaulted by the very gays whom they've been telling for years that they would respect, if only we were after real, committed relationships, like them, and not just casual sex, with or without interns. Our zealot governor, Mitt Romney, has vowed that he will veto any pro-gay-marriage legislation. This is only to be expected from someone with close ties to the Mormons -- who have donated more money than almost any other group to keeping marriage in this country an exclusive breeders-only club. The legislature is already threatening an exclusionary anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. The chance of any sort of marriage-for-gays legislation passing in the next 180 days is zero, as far as I can see. Even if the Ghosts of Christmasses past, present, and future visit all our members of congress, opening their hearts to civil rights, and they approve gay marriage, it will be practically meaningless, since the ironically-named, viciously bigoted Defence of Marriage Act, signed into law in 1996 by another mis-termed "liberal," erstwhile marriage defender Bill Clinton, already bans any federal recognition of non-hetero marriage.
It seems that politicians and the voting public are unable to learn from our country's past -- a past when marriage was kept out of reach of slaves, in order to subjugate them. A past when black people were denied housing and wage rights equal to those of land-holding whites. A past when the majority in control of the law encouraged blacks to be more like them -- less "uppity" -- and then told the black people who had modelled their behavior on that of whites that, actually, they were still not good enough, and would have to be content with separate facilities and institutions. Even Republicans these days pretend those days are long behind us -- while proudly attempting to strike down non-existant racially-preferential treatment to applicants to the University of Michigan. Then they move on to declare the anniversary of the brutal, bigotry-motivated lynching and murder of Matthew Shepard "Marriage Protection Week," carefully declining to specify exactly whom they're protecting from whom.
All of which leaves me less than proud to pay more taxes than ever in my life, on earnings which have declined every year since 2000, so that the politicians whose salaries I, and others like me, toil to pay can spend their valuable time telling me how inferior I am to them and their esteemed breeding privileges. The thought of moving to our chilly neighbor, Canada, has never seemed so pleasant. But then, as I discovered on a visit last month, Ontario, where marriage is a right available to us lowly gays, is one of those rabidly communist places inhabited by wealthy intellectual fur barons and fishing suppliers, who make their ill-gained millions selling worms to poor capitalist fishermen. Can't have that, can we?
Update 2004-Feb-10: I'm happy to say that it looks like I was wrong. Last week, the SJC announced, after reviewing a proposal from the legislature about civil unions, that separate was not equal, and that their initial ruling had indeed specified that gay couples must be allowed to marry in the Commonwealth. The bigots in the legislature seem to lack the votes for a constitutional amendment; in any event, such an amendment cannot possibly be enacted before April. It appears as though Massachusetts may actually offer equality under state law in a few months.
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