Should people wish to know what life under unrestrained liberalism would be like, they should tune in to the contentious issues surrounding the latest same sex marriage controversy which were resurrected this past week in Massachusetts. In 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, by its Goodridge decision, made that state the first in the country to legalize same sex marriages. Shortly thereafter, Massachusetts's citizens collected the requisite number of signatures for a referendum petition to be placed before the Legislature for passage to go on a subsequent ballot for voter approval.
When the matter was first before them, the Legislature adjourned the annual Constitutional Convention through parliamentary procedure without voting on the initiative. When they met in Constitutional Convention again this November, the Legislature was once again remiss in its duties by attempting, to adjourn without taking up the measure. Only this time, Republican Governor Mitt Romney decided to put their feet to the fire. Romney, in one of his last official acts as the state's Governor, filed a petition before the Supreme Judicial Court for a ruling ordering the Legislature to discharge their duties as clearly and unequivocally delineated in the Massachusetts Constitution.
Last week the Supreme Judicial Court agreed with Romney. In its unanimous ruling: the Court held that Legislators, "have a constitutional duty to vote by the yeas and nays on the merits of all pending initiative amendments before recessing. While it acknowledged that it had no basis on which to force the Legislature to vote, it left little doubt that the Members of the General Court nonetheless had a clear constitutional obligation to do so. In order to make it to the ballot, the measure needed at least 50 votes. It passed by 61. In the end, a recalcitrant legislature dominated by Democrats, was shamed by a vigilant Republican Governor and the state's highest court to vote on the measure.
In an apoplectic editorial, The Boston Globe, blithely ignoring the decision of the very same court upon which it had heaped praise subsequent to its decision legalizing same sex marriage, intoned mightily that,
"There is no such right. The Constitution provides that it can only be changed by public instigation through an initiative amendment that must first be approved by one-quarter of two successive Legislatures. If the collection of signatures were reason enough to put a proposed amendment on the ballot, there would be no need for the one-quarter votes from the legislators. This means that each senator and representative is duty-bound not simply to pass the issue on to the electorate, but to vote it up or down on the merits."
In other words, the most recent ruling issued by the same court whose original decision they hailed, as a great victory for equal rights, was all wrong. Eileen McNamara, a Globe columnist, wrote that,
"Neither can we in good conscience pretend that the bigotry toward homosexuals, as old as the Bible and as fresh in our memory as last year's fatal attack at a gay bar in New Bedford, can be wished away or ruled away by one decision of one high court in the still-divided Commonwealth of Massachusetts."
McNamara's column encapsulates the haughtiness with which liberals proselytize their social scheme and the utter disdain with which they hold those who do not agree with their attempts to impose their will on an unreceptive public. In essence, she is saying that if you don't agree with the proponents of same sex marriage, you are a bigot. This episode has laid bare the elitist, insufferable and anti-democratic nature of liberalism for all to see.
The "civil rights" argument used to justify denying the citizens the right to be heard on the important question of same sex marriage is entirely specious. Proponents of same sex marriage assert that by allowing a vote on the issue is tantamount to "writing discrimination into the Massachusetts Constitution." How so? Civil rights are those guaranteed by the Constitution that are incidental to conduct in a democratic polity: the right to vote, the right to free speech, and the right to petition the government. Nowhere in the Massachusetts Constitution is there a "right" to call the union of a man and a man a marriage. This ostensible civil right is simply an attempt to redefine a social institution that has been in existence for thousands of years.
Furthermore, why is discrimination such an odious term? We encounter discrimination in nearly every facet of our daily lives, a great deal of which we find unobjectionable. Automobile insurance companies discriminate against bad drivers. The constitutional requirement that you must be 18 years old before you can vote discriminates against minors. Marriage as a traditional social institution does indeed discriminate against homosexuals in the same way that the NBA discriminates against short people.
This latest battle on same sex marriage was rife with irony. The very same court that decreed in its Goodridge decision that homosexuals must be allowed to marry may, by their recent ruling, undo their own judicial radicalism. In a very real sense, they have reaped what they have sown. As for those legislators who were agonizing over whether they should comply with the ruling, which compelled them to vote, their hypocrisy is breathtaking. There was no searching of their conscience when they embraced the original ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court establishing same sex marriage as a constitutional requirement. Why is the ruling of that same court entitled to less deference now?
This drama is also instructive, for it contains all that is odious about contemporary liberalism: its haughty presumption of the moral high ground; its redefinition and twisting of the political vocabulary into philosophical mush to serve whatever is at the top of the agenda for the Licentious Left.
The initiative petition, which would have placed the fate of same sex marriage in the hands of the voters of Massachusetts, despite its permissibility under the state's constitution, was relentlessly and spuriously characterized as "vindictive", mean-spirited and an impermissible way to insert "discrimination" into the constitution. What are advocates of same-sex marriage afraid of? Why, despite the fact that they claim the moral high ground on this issue, are proponents terrified of letting the citizens of the state vote on the radical notion that marriage is between a man and a woman? Any sentient person knows the answer to that question: what they can never achieve at the ballot box, they seek to impose on the rest of us through and activist and imperious judiciary.
Massachusetts Governor-elect Deval Patrick weighed in on the issue by lobbying legislators at the last minute. Shortly after the court issued its unequivocal ruling, and one day before he was to pledge to uphold the state's constitution at his inauguration, Patrick's openly declared that the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court -essentially stating a constitutional imperative- should not stand.
In order to be placed before the voters, the initiative petition needs one more approval by the General Court. Whether the measure is killed outright at the next Constitutional Convention later this year remains to be seen. Already, the state's new Governor has made it known that is exactly what he intends to do. Whether he can count on a Legislature dominated by Democrats to be his accomplices remains to be seen. Perhaps this latest battle will give them pause lest they run the risk of waking the voters of Massachusetts from their decades-old somnolence.
John Kinsellagh is an attorney and writer who lives in Medfield, Massachusetts. He blogs at beaconstreetjournal.com