In favor of civil rights without general vote

Elected officials have a responsibility never to let the general populace decide if a minority should have civil rights. Bigotry, misogyny, anti-immigrant fervor and homophobia should never be guiding forces when determining the right thing to do. It is the mandate of the Legislature to take a stand against injustice and bigotry. During the recent Constitutional Convention, we failed our constituents when 61 of my peers voted to allow the proposed amendment to ban gay marriage to move forward through the political process.

The former state attorney general’s office failed the Commonwealth’s residents by not fully investigating charges of fraud as opponents of marriage rights being extended to gay men and lesbians gathered signatures for the petition that we must now vote on.

The former governor failed to uphold his oath to serve all of the people when he stood in front of a religious conference to bash a significant part of our state’s population, their children and their families.

Our supporters failed by not flooding the State House with letters and calls demanding justice.

I believe that civil union and domestic partnership are compromises that undermine the stability of gay relationships and their families. More than 8,500 couples have married since the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in Goodridge et al. Not one same-sex couple’s marriage has led to the demise of a heterosexual marriage. State Rep. Liz Malia’s relationship with her female partner has no impact on my relationship with my girlfriend. Your gay neighbors’ marriage has no impact on your relationship either. Simply put, this is an issue of protecting Massachusetts’ gay and lesbian residents by providing them and their families with all of the rights bestowed to those who call the Commonwealth home.

I am proud of the men and women I serve with at the State House. I believe that we serve with honor and dignity and courage everyday. I do believe that there was a misunderstanding of the SJC’s recent ruling on whether or not legislators were constitutionally bound to take up a vote. I believe that battle fatigue has affected some of my fellow legislators. There are some with whom I serve who do not fully understand the need for protecting gay and lesbian families by affording couples the uncompromised right to marry. As a white Irish Catholic guy born and bred in Dorchester, I understand how the church and politics can get in the way of doing what’s right versus what is politically prudent.

In order to defeat this proposed amendment, a few things must happen. Those of us who support the right to marry must work with each other to articulate to the other 61 legislators why each and every elected official must support the defeat of the proposed ban; the supporters of the right to marry must become re-energized. All supporters of the right to marry must support MassEquality and its coalition members with their dollars and their time.

I will see you on the front lines of this fight until this and any similar proposed amendments are defeated.

State Rep. Martin J. Walsh

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