Why this shift in direction when all indications are that we clearly do not have the votes to defeat the amendment on its merits? Why are we pursuing this strategy when it seems as though getting the right amount of votes is highly unlikely? What happens if we don’t get the votes by June 14? Do we just resign ourselves to defeat?
What we do have is an overwhelming majority of legislators who see the fundamental unfairness of subjecting queer rights to a vote. If the legislators agree with that position, I cannot understand why the idea of killing this amendment through procedural maneuvers is so far-fetched. If they agree with same-sex marriage, we have a basis by which to tell them if they really care about queer people, they will do whatever it takes to squash the amendment.
I think that the strategy of lobbying to defeat the amendment on its merits would be a good one so long as there is also a strategy to kill the amendment procedurally as well. I have no access to what is going on behind closed doors at the State House, nor do I have inside information about the lobby effort. I can only hope that MassEquality and the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus are trying to do both. In an ideal situation, they would be getting the votes to defeat the amendment on its merits, but also getting legislators ready to kill the amendment if necessary. This may be a secret strategy that they’re not public about because of perceived repercussions (which, if so, is in and of itself a sign of the weakness of our side), but I doubt it.
Regardless of what strategy the lobbyists use, it is clear that our ideological strategy is broken. I know I’ve been saying this so much that I sound like a broken record, but it’s true. That Senate President Therese Murray says that she will have an up-or-down vote on the amendment—a rightward shift of her position, by the way—is a very ominous sign. If our political hand were stronger, the State Legislature would have no qualms about killing this amendment (as they did the health care amendment).Therefore, I think we need to be clearer with legislators: A position that is not committed to defeating this amendment by (and I will say it again) any means necessary is unacceptable. Everyone who claims to care about queer people’s rights needs to be on board with this argument.Allowing this amendment to go through will be devastating to the psyche of the queer community in this state (which is why the bigots want to see it passed). Any legislator not committed to destroying this amendment by any means at their disposal is necessarily and unequivocally putting the queer community of Massachusetts in the crosshairs of a homophobic campaign. And when the hate crimes go up because of the heightened climate of homophobia (which they will), the blood will be on their hands. I hate to be so blunt about it, but these are the stakes. Massachusetts state legislators, it is time to make a choice. You can side with bigotry or with the community you claim to support. Sometimes, there is no mushy-middle and there is no compromise—only right and wrong. And we need to present the argument to the people of Massachusetts in this light as well, though not as harshly. Nonetheless we also need to say to the people that for them too it is time to make a choice. It is not a choice between “democracy” and “judicial activism.” That ruse collapsed in front of God and everybody when the State Legislature killed the health care amendment and VoteonMarriage.org did not even bother to feign crocodile tears! In fact, they proclaimed that “democracy” had won, thereby showing their true priorities and selective concern for “democracy.” I wonder what the people of Massachusetts will think if they found out VoteonMarriage people whined and cried like spoiled brats this week when the State Legislature dared to put things like budgets before their vendetta against queer people? No, this is a choice between bigotry and justice. We need to plaster the despicable, homophobic comments of the leaders of VoteonMarriage.org all around this state. Each comment should implicitly ask the question: Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of someone who compares gays to September 11 terrorists, as Roberto Miranda, VoteonMarriage.org’s chairperson did? Do you want to be an accomplice of someone who calls queer people “demonic forces” as Black Ministerial Alliance President Gilbert Thompson did?The motivation for this amendment is clearly homophobia; the “democracy” rhetoric is a rather transparent farce. I sincerely believe that the most effective ideological strategy over the next month will be one that shifts from the sing-songy rallies and instead works to expose this reality. As Mel White, director of Soulforce put it, “what they say in private, we have to shout from the rooftops.”
In addition, pro-marriage equality lobbyist groups need to give queers a free hand to operate on the ideological front, if we so choose. I have heard too many stories of people who have been silenced by MassEquality activists and others because their statements or signs were too "radical." This has got to stop now. We cannot wage an effective campaign with our hands tied behind our back due to fear of looking too "negative" or "radical."