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Making the Ban…

So the supporters of Gay Marriage in Massachusetts have scored a major victory by defeating a move to put an amendment to the State Constitution on the ballet banning the nuptials. Under the state constitution, voter initiated amendments, which this was, need 50 votes out of a Joint Session of the state legislature. Yesterday, the ban failed to advance on a 45-151 vote.

Sen. President Therese Murray had stated soon after ascending to her position a vote on the amendment was among her top priorities. Earlier this week, she said she hoped to hold a vote, but only if there were enough votes to kill the amendment. Gov. Deval Patrick wanted to end the amendment because he feared that it would “be all we do” until the elections in 2008.

The amendment lost 17 votes since it was first voted on back in January. A full roll call of votes can be seen on the Boston Globe’s website. That is a significant shift in only six months time. While Gay Marriage advocates would like to think that they changed the minds of those members, more likely than not, the answer is much simpler: pork. The powers that be on Beacon Hill very likely decided to use the power of the purse to “convince” a few legislators how a defeat of this bill would be beneficial to their district.

There is no evidence of this, nor will we likely see it unless we can track down where all 17 changed votes were in the last week, cross reference it with credit card receipts for coffee shops and restaurants, then get eye strain by parsing through the State budget or any supplemental spending bills. It is unlikely that they caved to populist pressure because gay marriage advocates, frankly do not have the muscle in the districts of 25% of the state’s legislative districts. Admittedly, gay marriage opponents do have significant muscle in most of the same districts.

The ballot initiative is dead, but the issue is far from dead. Certainly Mitt Romney will be making statements out on the stump (far away from Mass) that he fought hard to try to get this noble [sarcasm] bill this far. And Gov. Patrick, naive as he is, probably does not realize that while gay marriage may not be “all we do” it still will be something that we do.

There are many people who wanted the initiative on the ballot on both sides who are upset over the notion that the people have been denied their say. The state Republican party, a wounded beast will make hay out of it in 2008. I doubt that they will make significant headway as a result, but they will make trouble for state Dems, especially as the fractures within the party become more apparent in the coming weeks and months. There may not be a gay marriage initiative, but there will be 151 names on primaries ballots in Sept 2008 and on the general two months later that may be facing heavy scrutiny for their vote. It will not take much for challengers both in the primaries and in the general to spin votes against this as a vote again democracy.

While a casual reader of this blog may find elements of support for both sides, the truth is, I never had an opinion. Ever since this issue raised its head three years ago, when the SJC’s decision became effective, I didn’t care. I have been bombarded with mass mailings and recently phone calls asking my opinion on the issue and encouraging me to contact my legislators, which I did not. I think I stunned a woman calling from MassEquality when I told her I was indifferent. I’m sure I’m not the first person to feel that way or even the first to express their opinion as such. However, given the rapid fire way they ask their questions most probably feel a compulsion to answer the question their way. In short, I’m sure a lot of people were more indifferent to the issue than any poll can suggest.

Either way we will not truly see the fallout until the State Mid-term elections in 2008. Maybe I’m wrong, but there will probably be some political payback when that day comes.