There was never any real question that the legislature, convened in a Constitutional Convention, would vote on the bigoted proposal to ban marriage between couples of the same sex.
The vile jaw-boning of the thankfully now ex-governor Mitt Romney had nothing to do with it.
Likewise, the admonition of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court had little to do with it.
The issue, as Phoenix political writer David S. Bernstein pointed out before this week’s dispiriting vote, was guaranteed to come to a vote because Senate president Robert Travaglini thought it should.
Unfortunately, by denying that reality, the people fighting on the side of the angels magnified the scope of the victory won by gay-marriage opponents.
Senate president Travaglini has been clear for some time that he thought this noxious measure should come to a vote. And he has been equally clear that he opposes same-sex-marriage rights and favors civil unions.
There might have been a time when it was appropriate, perhaps even reasonable, to debate the relative merits of each. There was a time when voting for civil unions would have been welcome. Indeed, there’s a strong case to be made for simply eliminating “marriage” from our legal lexicon altogether, and referring to all who choose to enter into this civil contract as “civil unions.”
But the time for that debate has long since passed. And it is dishonest to pretend otherwise.
It took a common-sense reading of the state constitution to not only put the issue of same-sex marriage on the agenda, but, by doing so, to change the very nature of the agenda itself.
The issue today isn’t civil unions, it’s marriage: the right of people of the same sex to do what people of the opposite sex have been able to do since beyond memory. The bigots, the rednecks, the haters (and let’s be clear, that’s what the core opponents of same-sex marriage are) have so far succeeded in their mind game of convincing enough legislators that because marriage has throughout history legally joined people only of the opposite sex, it must forever be so. By that measure, women and African Americans would still be chattel, the property of their husbands or owners.
Public officials like Travaglini and Senator John Kerry who try to straddle the fence on this issue effectively comfort those with the same historical mindset — the dangerously unimaginative one — that wanted to preserve slavery, deny women the vote, and deny African-Americans and other ethnic minorities their just measure of the national dream. When those debates were at full throttle in years past, there were plenty of well-meaning moderates sympathetic to the civil-rights issues at hand who simply could not see the disastrous consequences of their equivocation and accommodation of outright prejudice.
Just as we cannot turn back the clock, we cannot stop the march of time. And the time for men and women who are gay and lesbian to be able to marry the people they love has come.
It is as criminal to deny our neighbors that right today as it was 50 years ago to deny black southerners their rights. It’s as simple as that.