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Same-sex-marriage news from all over


Here are some assorted items related to same-sex marriage:

I imagine most of you who care have heard by now that on Thursday, the Massachusetts legislature voted not to put the proposed anti-same-sex-marriage state-constitutional amendment on the November 2008 ballot. The measure needed to get 50 votes (25% of the legislators) to make it to the ballot, but only achieved 45 votes. For details, see the Boston Globe's article "Legislators vote to defeat same-sex marriage ban" and the AP article "Gay marriage to remain legal in Mass."

The measure would have had to pass at two legislative sessions in order to make it to the ballot. This would have been the second of the two sessions; at the end of the previous session (in January), the measure got 62 votes. Some of the difference in numbers between then and now is, iIrc, due to legislators who are no longer in office, but the rest is because nine legislators changed their votes. I found the statement by state senator Gale Candaras, one of the nine, to be especially compelling and moving. She doesn't explicitly address the question of why she changed her vote (as opposed to voting no from the start), but she does say things like:

I have been most impressed by the number of individuals who have called me and asked me to change my vote because they have changed their minds. One grandmother told me she had changed her mind and wanted me to change my vote in case one of her grandchildren grew up to be gay or lesbian. She did not want any of her grandchildren to be denied the right to marry the person they love.

An International Herald-Tribune article gives more info; turns out that when Candaras voted in favor of the amendment, she was a state representative; now she's a state senator, and has a "larger, more progressive" district than before. It also notes that she was worried about the possibility of "a vicious referendum campaign." Those quotes are from the article, not from Candaras; here's more about her from the article:

Most moving, she said, were older constituents who had changed their views after meeting gay men and lesbians. One woman had "asked me to put it on the ballot for a vote, but since then a lovely couple moved in," Candaras said. "She said, 'They help me with my lawn, and if there can't be marriage in Massachusetts, they'll leave and they can't help me with my lawn."

Massachusetts: Changing minds, one lawn at a time.

The people opposed to same-sex marriage are saying that there must have been underhanded dealings to make legislators change their votes. I gather they're hoping to file lawsuits about it. If that doesn't work, they may try again to bring about a vote--but the soonest the measure can appear on a ballot now is 2012. By that time, same-sex marriage will have been legal in MA for eight years. Given how fast public sentiment has been changing lately (see below), I suspect that the measure won't have a chance by that time.

There was certainly pressure on legislators to vote against putting the amendment on the ballot, but so far nobody's shown any evidence that that pressure wasn't legal and aboveboard. I was particularly pleased to see some of the people who were involved in pushing legislators to vote no:

  • Deval Patrick (new MA governor)
  • Nancy Pelosi
  • Ted Kennedy

Others, too, but those were the highest-profile people I saw listed. I'm glad to see them not only supporting same-sex marriage but being willing to publicly push others to do so as well.

I think it's worth noting, though, that the measure might well have failed even had it reached the ballot. The people who wanted it on the ballot said a lot of things like "Let the people decide," implying that the measure (changing the state constitution to disallow same-sex marriage) would certainly have passed in a popular vote. But it ain't necessarily so. (I find that quoting showtunes in blog entries about queer issues lends a certain high-class tone to the proceedings, don't you?)

In 2003, two Massachusetts polls showed just about 50% of MA residents supported same-sex marriage. And according to that IHT article I quoted earlier (though the questions asked were apparently different and so the numbers may not be directly comparable), "The most recent Massachusetts poll, in April 2007, found that 56 percent of those surveyed would oppose the amendment."

So it seems to me that even if the amendment had gone to the ballot, there's a significant chance that it would have failed.

Meanwhile, here on the other coast a couple weeks ago, "The California Assembly [. . .] passed AB 43, legislation that would give same-sex couples the ability to marry." The text of the bill is worth taking a look at. For example, Sec. 3(c):

In 1948, the California Supreme Court became the first state court in the country to strike down a law prohibiting interracial marriage. It was the only state supreme court to do so before the United States Supreme Court invalidated all those laws in 1967. The California Supreme Court held that "marriage is ... something more than a civil contract subject to regulation by the state; it is a fundamental right of free men ... Legislation infringing such rights must be based upon more than prejudice and must be free from oppressive discrimination to comply with the constitutional requirements of due process and equal protection of the laws" (Perez v. Sharp (1948) 32 Cal.2d 711, 714-715). The California Supreme Court explained that "the right to marry is the right to join in marriage with the person of one's choice" (Id., at p. 715).

As y'all may recall, the Assembly did this before, back in 2005, and Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed that bill, explaining that it went against the will of the people as expressed in 2000's Proposition 22. Schwarzenegger has indicated that he'll veto this one, too, assuming it passes the state Senate.

For more info on the current status of things in California, see Wikipedia's Same-sex marriage in California article. One thing not mentioned in that article is that it's generally expected that the CA Supreme Court will be ruling on several same-sex-marriage-related issues sometime during the next year.

Another is that recent California polls indicate that 43% of the state's population are in favor of same-sex marriage, and that support continues to grow over time, and that support continues to be stronger among younger people; it seems clear that, in the absence of some major destabilizing factor, there'll be a majority in favor of same-sex marriage in CA within the next ten or twenty years. But it would be nice to not have to wait that long.

Here's an interesting-if-true statistic: Wikipedia says that in a Gallup poll in May 2006, 39% of Americans felt that "marriages between homosexuals" should be legally recognized--whereas when Gallup asked the same question about "marriages between same-sex couples," the number in favor went up to 42%. That statement is unsourced, though, and I can't find any info about it on the Gallup site, so it's possible some Wikipedia editor just made it up. I did, though, find a recent video on the Gallup site saying that the latest Gallup poll (May 2007) shows 46% of Americans in favor of legal same-sex marriage, up from 27% in 1996. Not a majority yet, but we've come a long way in the past ten years. (And it suggests to me that the 43% figure for California may be a little low--I would be pretty surprised if California actually had a lower percentage than the nation as a whole.)

Meanwhile, California is also heading in the right direction in another area. When an opposite-sex couple gets married in CA, the forms they fill out provide a blank for the woman to specify her new last name, should she desire to change her name. The process is automatic, free, and easy. There is no such blank on the man's side of the form, however; if a man wants to change his name as part of getting married, he just can't. He has to go through the standard process that people go through to undergo a legal name change, which involves (among other hoop-jumping) paying over $300 in assorted fees, publishing the new name in the newspaper, and waiting a few weeks to see if anyone objects. Likewise if one or both members of a domestic partnership want to change their names.

CA Assembly Bill 102 changes that; it allows new husbands and domestic partners to change their names as easily as new wives can. The bill passed the Assembly in early May; it'll go to the state Senate soon. See also the Equality California press release, the ACLU of Northern California press release, and a piece about a Log Cabin Republican couple's successful name change before the DMV stopped allowing this.


"Prejudice usually can't survive close contact with the people who are supposed to be so despicable" - Patrick Califia

An interesting note--as David Bernstein points out in the Boston Phoenix, in the last six months there have been several massive changes in Massachusetts State politics, almost all of them involving gay-marriage opponents (Gov. Romney, Senate President Travaglini, Attorney General Reilly) leaving office and being replaced by gay-marriage supporters (Gov. Patrick, Senate President Murray, Attorney General Coakley). And in last fall's state legislative races, opponents of gay marriage did not beat supporters of gay marriage in primaries or the general. There's pretty substantial political momentum there.

Also, strangely enough, after Mr. Travaglini, the Mass. State Senate chose a leader that did not and could not whip around votes in the time-honored way by intimidation, favor trading and threats. Which led Mr. Bernstein to conclude last week that despite the political momentum, they would lose. Fortunately, he was wrong...


I went to work in the morning listening to news about whether or not the pro-gay-marriage folks would be able to postpone the vote, and was ecstatic to drive home hearing they hadn't needed to. The Anti's have been portraying the issue as the Right of the People to decide, while the Pro's have mostly managed to point out that issues of basic civil rights are not best left to majority rule. We probably would've won the referendum, but I'm glad we didn't have to suffer through the months of vicious publicity that would have undoubtably come with it. And there's always the chance we'd lose through targetted efforts, as we did with the anti-bilingual-education referendum, in which the western half of the state with virtually no bilingual ed to worry about banned it for the rest of us.

My favorite replacement of a representative was back in Somerville, where the long-term incumbant local rep was vehemently anti-gay. A young gay man decided to oppose him, and the incumbant didn't really notice/take the challenge seriously until he lost the primary. He then launched a write-in campaign (using his public office newsletter to send all his constituents stickers to put on the ballot), in which he accused the challenger of being both a stealth candidate (hiding his nefarious gay agenda from the innocent voters) and a one-issue candidate. The challenger politely pointed out one could hardly be both.

Anyway, feels good to be from MA. So much in the world is messed up these days, it's nice to be part of one thing going right.

Oh yeah--I know who bhadrika's talking about (don't know if there was a reason not to use names?) and that was both a hideous and a horrible campaign. The challenger was running unopposed after defeating the (hideous) incumbent and although the write-in was pretty scary he did, in fact, whup the incumbent good. In a lot of ways Somerville is still a pretty conservative town with a substantial political machine, but there's some great stuff going on.

Crap. "a hideous and an awesome" campaign, I meant. Good and bad, not bad and bad.