Notes from the Hill

After we remember you on Tuesday, will you forget us on Thursday?

Democracy is churning. Energetic candidates at every level are hiking the trails looking for the people’s support. Political appeals stream into our homes through a multitude of media byways, urging us to get out and vote on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7. Circle the date. Log in the electronic reminder. “And remember me at the polls,” our political suitors plead.

Yes, it’s good to vote, our civic duty. We’ll make the sacrifice, leave a little earlier from home or work to reach our local polling place before it closes, taking time to mark our choices for various offices. But will the favor be returned two days later when this year’s constitutional convention is reopened? Will those state legislators we remember on Election Tuesday then turn around and forget us the following Thursday? Read the following for a new action item regarding the marriage vote at the Statehouse and a referral to new materials on the issue of marriage and civil rights.

Take a vote to let us vote

On Thursday, Nov. 9, just two days after we vote in the election, our legislators are supposed to return to the Statehouse in Boston for a vote of their own. After campaigning for our vote, will we get their vote? The issue is letting the people vote on marriage. An initiative petition backed by 170,000 citizens, asking the legislature to vote once this year and once again in the next two years to send to the people a proposed constitutional amendment reaffirming traditional marriage, should be on every state legislator’s to-do list for November. Up for a Statehouse vote on the 9th is the question--should the people vote on marriage at the ballot in 2008?

There is nothing in the law that commands the people to vote in elections. We do it because it’s right. There is, however, a law that commands the legislature to vote on initiative petitions. It’s in the Massachusetts Constitution under Article 48, making access to the referendum ballot the people’s civil right if at least 50 legislators are prepared to approve a petition. By all reports, we have the 50 legislators.

Yet some incumbents, after asking the people to vote them back into power on Election Tuesday, want to misuse that power on the following Thursday to stop the people from voting for themselves. There is talk of a Con-Con boycott. The directions might read: Stay home. Don’t show up. Without a quorum, the Con-Con will die, and the initiative petition will die. After months of ubiquitous campaigning to get a vote from the people, take the rest of the year off to prevent a vote by the people. That’s the plan, according to some reports. It’s a two part strategy -- first run for office and then run from the office -- or put another way, let the people check my ballot on the 7th and I’ll chuck their ballot on the 9th.

The Roman Catholic Bishops in Massachusetts will issue another statement in the coming days, asking for renewed grassroots action by parishioners. It is critical that Catholics and other concerned citizens again place phone calls and write e-mails to their state senator and state representative. Even if you made contact in the past, send a reminder message. Go to on the Web and click on “communicate” to deliver an e-mail to both. Or call the Statehouse switchboard at 617-722-2000 and ask to be forwarded to your legislators’ Senate and House offices. The message is simple -- don’t forget us on the 9th -- take a vote to let the people vote on the Marriage Amendment in 2008.

(For information purposes, consult the roll call tally on the following page to see how your legislators voted in July on a motion to adjourn an earlier session of the Con-Con without taking up the Marriage Amendment. The adjournment did not kill the amendment but delayed further action until Nov. 9th.)

New resource paper available

Supporters of same-sex marriage oppose the Marriage Amendment by arguing that it would “take away civil rights” and permit a majority to tyrannize a minority. A new paper by responding to these arguments is entitled “How Civil Rights Are Born -- By Democracy, Not Lawsuits.” The paper, a one-page summary, and a PowerPoint overview, are available online at Extensively footnoted, the paper relies almost exclusively on same-sex marriage advocates or neutral authorities as sources.

The paper argues that democracy -- that is, the people -- and not the courts, establish civil rights. Bringing the Marriage Amendment to a vote at the ballot is the essence of democracy. The paper examines history and the law to demonstrate how civil rights are created through the democratic enactment of constitutional amendments or civil rights statutes.

The paper notes that same-sex marriage was never elevated to the level of a civil right by the people of Massachusetts, but was instituted by a court. Moreover, the court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth equated supporters of traditional marriage to racists.

As a consequence, the paper explains, without democracy’s backing people will be punished as bigots for disagreeing with same-sex marriage and charged with violating civil rights if they refuse to recognize the validity of same-sex marriage licenses. This threat of persecution calls for a review by the people.

Putting marriage on the ballot thus gives the people, the sovereign rulers in a democracy, a fundamental choice: either continue to treat supporters of traditional marriage as bigots or reaffirm marriage as the union of man and woman as a matter of common sense. The paper concludes that this is how democracy must function or it will cease to be a democracy.

“Notes from the Hill” is provided by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice for the four Catholic dioceses of Massachusetts. "Notes from the Hill” is not an official statement of the bishops of Massachusetts or MCC.