All politics are local

Much is at stake in the upcoming presidential elections. Two candidates with differing visions of society and the world are courting American voters. Depending on which candidate prevails the nation will be set on very distinctive paths.

However, we should not lose sight of the importance of local political races. Although seemingly dealing with issues less transcendent than war, peace and the national economy, the duties and responsibilities of our state representatives and senators should not be minimized.

Local legislative races are often marked by voter inertia and a lack of public participation. Many voters are content to reelect incumbents, so long as they have done a fair job of defending local interests.

As the recent same-sex marriage debate showed, local elections are about much more than taxes and education.

The same-sex marriage debate is not over. A more pro-same-sex marriage legislature could impede the constitutional amendment that would define marriage in this state as the union of one man and one woman while, at the same time, creating marriage-like civil unions.

While the amendment is far from ideal, it would at least somewhat mitigate the damage caused to the institution of marriage by restricting the validity of civil unions to Massachusetts, halting the anticipated domino effect as marriage laws are challenged in other states by same-sex couples married here.

Meanwhile, more pro-traditional marriage legislature could propose a straightforward, no-strings-attached amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. A drastic change in the make-up of the legislature would be required for that to occur, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility. After a civil unions law was enacted in Vermont in May 2000, 17 pro-civil union legislators were ousted in the following election, according to an Oct. 19 Associated Press report.

According to that same report, the same-sex marriage issue “is not playing a highly visible role” in the current legislative elections in this state. That is an advantage for proponents of same-sex marriage.

“What we need to do is make sure that voting for equal marriage rights does not hurt people at the ballot box,” said Marty Rouse, campaign coordinator for MassEquality, a advocacy group for same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. “We feel that there are enough legislators watching and if their friends and colleagues get re-elected, then they will vote the way they were too nervous to vote the first time.”

The national gay and lesbian organization, Human Rights Campaign, has pumped $600,000 into to help with its grass roots efforts in campaigns where pro-gay rights candidates are in jeopardy, according to Cheryl Jacques, who left the Massachusetts Legislature earlier this year to head the group.

Thanks to efforts of groups such as Catholic Citizenship, Catholics are becoming educated on issues that are directly connected to the tenants of their faith, such as the defense of marriage.

We encourage our readership to seek information on the issues and to vote responsibly Nov. 2, as we elect our next president…but also as we determine the composition of the Massachusetts legislature.