Today, I am very proud of my state, and also proud of our paper of record for an editorial for the ages (reg. required).
After weeks of intense lobbying and endless speculation about who might vote how, a joint session of the Legislature made blessedly quick work yesterday of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In a State House mobbed with revved-up campaigners on both sides of the issue, lawmakers took a quarter hour to dispatch the proposal by a decisive margin. The vote was a victory for decency and civil equality, and underscored Massachusetts' long history of protecting individual rights.
Advocates of the constitutional ban needed only 50 of 200 votes to advance their cause to the ballot; they mustered only 45. More significantly, 151 legislators voted no on the amendment, leaving no doubt that proponents lacked the required 25 percent of the constitutional convention. Taken with the significance of the moment, legislators embraced after the vote, and some shed tears on the House floor.
House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, Senate President Therese Murray, and Governor Deval Patrick all deserve credit for their efforts to rally opposition to the ban. But the honor roll includes the names of all 151 lawmakers who voted against the measure. (Please see the roll call on page B7.) Lawmakers in much of the rest of the country have sought to outdo each other in the virulence of their opposition to same-sex marriage. Supporters of marriage equality should be proud of this Commonwealth, where a three-fourths majority of lawmakers recognizes that committed same-sex couples, like their opposite-sex counterparts, deserve the protection of the laws.
After the defeat of the amendment became evident, the cheering among supporters gathered in the State House went on and on and on; the sense of relief was palpable, because the stakes were so high. Had the amendment gone to the ballot, an ugly, bitter battle was inevitable. Had the measure passed, the damage to the rights of gay and lesbian residents of this state would have been grievous.
Meanwhile, people who dislike same-sex marriages have suffered no personal harm whatsoever from the defeat of the ban. Even so, yesterday's vote is unlikely to resolve the issue for good. Proponents of the marriage ban could well mount another petition drive. But amending the nation's oldest constitution is an arduous process by design, and it generally takes a couple of years at the least.
Time is on the side of equality. The state's first same-sex married couples have already celebrated their third wedding anniversaries. With each year that passes, it becomes ever clearer that the sky will not fall; that the institution of marriage has been strengthened, not weakened; and that giving everyone the right to marriage makes Massachusetts a happier place overall.
Right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history.