Nouveau Jim Crow

Those who favor another vote on gay marriage are 21st-Century crackers
By EDITORIAL  |  July 7, 2006

SEGREGATION, ANYONE?: By pushing equal marriage rights back into the legislature, leaders like Romney, Reilly, and O’Malley are being soft on the hard bigotry of discrimination.
Would Governor Mitt Romney or Attorney General Thomas Reilly call for a public or legislative vote to end slavery if it still existed in Massachusetts or the United States? Would Cardinal Sean O’Malley? Should the people — or their legislators — be heard? Is slavery still debatable?

If women weren’t allowed to vote, would Romney, Reilly, and O’Malley think that the idea is so dangerous, so radical, that a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that women were, in fact, equal to men needs legislative review?

It’s a safe bet that we all know the answers to those questions.

So why are Romney, Reilly, and O’Malley calling for a public vote on the state Supreme Court’s ruling that couples of the same gender have the same right to marry as those of different genders?

In O’Malley’s case, the answer is clear. The Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage and there is little O’Malley, as a prince of the Church, wouldn’t do to abolish it. If the threat of hell won’t scare gay-marriage advocates into submission, he hopes that respect for constitutional practice and legislative procedure will do the trick. He’s invoking Caesar to render unto God, or at least his God. When God is on your side, civil rights are beside the point.

Reilly appears to have scored political points in the recent debate among Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls. He was, for once, articulate — at least in the eyes of some pundits. These days Reilly says he is foursquare in favor of gay marriage. But he believes there should be a legislative vote on the issue; and if he were in the legislature, he would vote against bringing the issue before voters. Those are weasel words. They appear reasonable, but their import is that he is willing to put same-sex marriage in mortal danger. He may be in favor if it, but he’s willing to entertain the possibility that it could be abolished. With friends like Reilly, who needs enemies?

Onetime insurgent Deval Patrick, now the Democratic front-runner, said he wished the vote would not be held (isn’t that nice!) and that he’s in favor of gay marriage. But he believes the legislature should call its own shots. A waffle is a waffle by any other name.

Wild-card candidate Chris Gabrieli was equally disgraceful. Another “supporter” of equal marriage rights, he dodged the issue. When offered an opportunity to define how he differs from Patrick and Reilly, Gabrieli, to his shame, flubbed it.

There was a time and place for public debate and legislative consideration of gay marriage. It was yesterday.

For years, the legislative leadership killed prospects for any serious consideration of the issue. When civil-rights activists tried to gain legislative momentum for gay civil-unions rather than for full marriage rights — in the belief that a half a loaf was better than none — they were rebuffed.

But all that changed when the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which more than 200 years ago was the first in the nation to outlaw slavery (without any subsequent public vote), ruled that gay couples were equal to straight couples and that, as such, they had the same rights.

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