Left In Lowell

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May 29, 2007

Repost: If You Can’t Vote No, Abstain

by at 9:10 am.

This is a repost of an open letter to Senator Panagiotakos regarding the anti-gay rights-stripping amendment which is up for a vote in the Constitutitional Convention in two weeks. I’m revising and editing it from the original to include Rep. Nangle, who also has voted to forward this amendment in the past. To Reps. Golden and K. Murphy, my most profound thanks for your support of gay rights.

If You Can’t Vote No, Abstain

Dear Senator Panagiotakos and Representative Nangle,
I’m writing this open letter in a public forum to ask you for something very serious. I’m asking for your help to preserve the civil rights of tax-paying and voting citizens of the Commonwealth. I am referring to the inevitable Constitutional Convention where, for the second time, legislators will vote whether or not to let civil rights of our gay neighbors, family members, and friends be decided by ballot. I’m talking about the anti-gay-marriage amendment.

I, and many of your constituents, have begged, pleaded, and cajoled you to change your mind on this issue. I’ve even used some strong language - which I still stick by - and many efforts to appeal to your logic and reason on this matter. It is obvious you have an unshakable conviction, and despite the fact it saddens me greatly, I have to respect that.

I am hoping to convince you, then, to abstain from voting on this matter.

I understand that you may not be able to bring yourself to vote “no” to the ballot initiative. A No vote, of course, allows for gay marriages to continue to be legitimate in the eyes of the state. It will not change any religion’s right not to marry gays in the church, but merely carry civil weight of the same rights and responsibilities of marriage that I myself have enjoyed for seven years now. But we’ve exhausted all those arguments, so I will merely plead this: the people of the Commonwealth overwhelmingly wants this issue put to rest. They do not want another two years of a biting, hateful campaign. They don’t want any more out-of-state interference in our Commonwealth’s affairs; they do not want a vote. By voting “yes” on the constitutional amendment ballot initiative, you will be subjecting your constituents to inevitable media campaigns and harassment. And it will be that much easier to hurt our gay brothers and sisters with words…and maybe even worse.

If you go on the record with a “yes,” I believe your conscience will not be easy. In order to satisfy your convictions, you would have put hate on the state ballot, put civil rights up for popular vote. What if interracial marriage had been put on the ballot in the midst of the civil rights era? Would that have been fair or just?

The bar for allowing a ballot initiative to change the state constitution is too low. By abstaining, you will keep your conscience clear on both accounts. If you cannot bring yourself to vote “no,” please bring yourself to allow the rest of the legislature to vote their conscience to prevent a civil rights disaster. You will have had no part in it, save to allow the Commonwealth to move on as it has, working on the important issues of the day, instead of continuing the distraction of hate and bigotry.

Thank you for your service,
Lynne L
Left in Lowell

19 Responses to “Repost: If You Can’t Vote No, Abstain”

  1. Mike Combs Says:

    Seven of us from Progressive Democrats of Chelmsford met with Rep. Nangle this morning. Knowing the agenda and his position, I have a lot of respect for him coming to listen to us. It would have been easy for him to say no and have a more peaceful breakfast.

    Over 30 minutes, each of us related our perspective on equal marriage and the proposed amendment. He listened attentively, making sure everyone had a chance to speak before he explained his position.

    Basically, he said it was a personal issue to him and that while he had supported civil unions in the past, at this time he wouldn’t support equal marriage. He pointed out that he hears from both sides on the issue, including the 170,000 people who signed the petition to create the ballot initiative.

    We pointed out (well, among a lot of other things) that this wasn’t a roll-back to civil unions, this was completely erasing to zero the equal rights we’ve accorded gay couples. We asked him to at least sit this out and not take any action that would increase discrimination against people.

    Ultimately, Nangle promised to talk to Tom Golden and Geoff Hall about their decisions to support equal marriage. They both made brave decisions when they decided to do the right thing and support equal marriage, and hopefully their experience will be useful to him.

  2. Paul@101852 Says:

    I have joined Lynne in sending her Open Letter to Senator Panagiotakis and Rep. Nangle both are my represntatives as well). Since Lynne is a much better writer than I will ever be I have quoted her letter verbatim. I will graciously suggest that everyone else either send this or a similar letter to their Senator and Representative.

  3. Mimi Says:

    Paul:

    I just sent my letter to my Rep, David Nangle. I will also send Senator Panagiatakos a letter, somewhat different in tone and conent than the one I sent Rep. Nangle.

  4. Jacob Says:

    While I support Gay Marriage, I also support democracy. Que sera sera.

  5. Mike Combs Says:

    Our particularly successful version of democracy includes a bill of rights which protect against the tyranny of the majority.

    We also don’t have direct voting on everything. Our legislators are empowered and duty bound to act on as our representatives. Parlimentary manuevers are part of that process, too.

    In most cases, I’d like to see the legislature vote take a vote. But in special cases, and civil rights is one of our most revered special cases, they should use whatever means they have to uphold the concepts of freedom enshrined in our constitution.

  6. Tim Little Says:

    Jacob — Sorry; what exactly is that supposed to mean?

  7. Lynne Says:

    Since when does democracy = putting civil rights up for a vote??

    It’s also democracy to ask your representatives in government to do the right thing, as well.

    The ballot initiative process for this hateful amendment was, at worst, illegal and shouldn’t have been certified, and at best, a morally repugnant and far-too-easy loophole for a hateful group of bigots to hurt productive and deserving members of our society. To me, democracy should always err on the side of the individual. Democracy is the protection of the minority from tyranny of the majority. This amendment is set in opposition of fairness and democracy and truth.

  8. Muronao Says:

    “Basically, he said it was a personal issue to him”

    Yeah, and that’s kind of the problem, isn’t it? I don’t think his personal issues should be substituting for someone else’s constitutional rights.

    I like that new commercial they put out that talks about “voting on SOMEONE ELSE’S rights is wrong.” It would be one thing if we were voting on the right to marriage, whether or not any of us are allowed to have our marriages recognized by the state, by this is a case where our rights aren’t at any risk and we’re just trying to stip them away from the minority.

    All of these “VOM” people would be singing a different tune if it were their marriages being voted on, even know they know they’d win.

  9. Shawn Says:

    Democracy is the protection of the minority from tyranny of the majority.

    Far from the truth.

    The initiative petition process is the system in place to protect the people from the tyranny of the entrenched “public aristocracy.”

    But the question I see is “since when is marriage a civil right?”

    The constitution lists what are the rights of individuals that are protected by the federal government. All others are left up to the individual states (article 10).

    This issue is obviously something that needs to be discussed and resolved one way or another.

    Without a vote, gay marriages will never be considered positively acknowledged by posterity.

    “Parliamentary manuevers” only show that the supporters of thier cause cannot get it to pass.

  10. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Like most moral questions, the smell test is the ’shoe on the other foot’ test.

    The question to be asked is “should the state be defining specific classes of people out of marriage relationships?” That then begs the question ” if so, what classes of people should be treated differently with regard to marriage and why?” I think the key here is that last “why?”. If you answer “homosexuals” and “religion”, that fails the church and state smell test. If you answer “homosexuals” and “the definition of marriage”, that then begs the question “who’s definition?” and the answer to that either begs to bring in a non-governmental authority, usually religious, and then we are back to the church and state problem again. The other answer to “who’s definition?” is common parlance, but that then brings us back to the very first question since the state must codify its laws and whatever definition you want to say is common parlance, it must be understood that the state defines its own legal definition and then you are back at the beginning in that the state must decide if it is appropriate to discriminate in legally defining marriage.

    I find it impossible in a system that aspires to love personal freedom find a justification of treating homosexuals as a different class with regards to marriage because there is no good answer to “why” without bringing religion into it. As far as the constitution is concerned, I often wonder why people don’t bring up freedom of association in discussion of marriage. When mixed-race marriage laws were struck down, was freedom of association ever brought up?

  11. maria Says:

    Let the people vote - it’s the only fair way!

  12. Tim Little Says:

    Maria — Fair to whom?

  13. Mr. Lynne Says:

    I vote to unrecognize Maria’s marraige. Cuz I can vote on anything, right?

  14. Anonymous Says:

    You could vote on that… but you would lose.

  15. Shawn Says:

    I vote to unrecognize Maria’s marraige. Cuz I can vote on anything, right?

    Only if you can get 170,000 signatures of support behind you.

  16. Jason Says:

    I know the sanctity of my marriage hasn’t been the same since gay marriage went into effect. That, and all the problems it has caused in society since then. Oh wait none of that happened.

    Most of the arguments I’ve heard come back to religious beliefs, which is fine, except for the whole separation of church and state thing. Besides, the church I belong to seems to have had its own issues with pedophilia and cover ups. Talk about throwing stones from a glass house.

    Given the make up of the audience the last time I went to church, the religious arguments (in general) aren’t working on the younger crowd very well on a number of issues. I am beginning to wonder if some of our religious institutions are beginning the long slow fade to irrelevancy. I’m not saying religion doesn’t lay the foundation for much of our codified law and society. It gives a nice place to start from, but the world is a bit more complicated and there just may be some cracks starting to show in the foundation.

    We are all free to have and express your religious beliefs, rights and sacraments without interference from the state. Unless they want to start paying taxes on their property I say religious institutions should keep their nose out of state business. Even if it is a personal decision, the moral view should be on the side of freedom and not imposing your particular beliefs on another. If there was a measurable detrimental effect that’s one thing, but I’m not seeing it. I think most people would be hard pressed to come up with one… because its just not there.

    The courts are often used to make the tough decisions. The role of the judiciary has always been one of the most important checks and balances in our system of goverment. I can think of plenty of things if we put them to a vote would never pass, but have been overturned by courts. If the legislature can hold off on the reduction of the income tax that was actually passed on the ballot, I’m pretty sure they can suck it up and do the right thing here. This doesn’t need to be voted on. Let it stand as is. How many years has it been? And still the sky has not fallen.

    Of course there is another more simplistic view. A wise man once said to me when he learned about my marriage “Congratulations! After all why should you get to be happy?” Ouch.

  17. Ed Says:

    The damage caused by children raised by homosexual parents takes time to manifest itself. Studies such as the one by Bilbarz and Stacey indicate that chilren raised in this environment are more promiscuous and likely to engage in sexual experimentation at an early age.

  18. Mr. Lynne Says:

    http://www.planetout.com/news/feature.html?sernum=296

    “However, there are two problems with the conclusion that children raised in gay households are more likely to have same-sex experiences. The first is that the study relied on self-reporting. It seems likely that children raised by gay parents feel less shame about same-sex sexual activity and are therefore more likely to report it when it occurs. That does not tell us much about whether they are actually experimenting more with gay sex than children raised in heterosexual families. The other problem is that the sample size was extremely small, involving only 25 interviewees for the gay households and 20 for the straight households.”

    http://www.adam-carr.net/bnews/2001/bn122.txt

    “‘Children brought up by lesbians and gay men are well adjusted, have
    good levels of self-esteem [and] are as likely to have high educational
    attainments as children raised in more traditional heterosexual families’, they say.”

    http://www.boston.com/news/daily/18/plaintiff_reply2.pdf

    “The Commonwealth ignores the clear conclusion drawn even in the article on which it relies – namely, that research from the most rigorously peer-reviewed journals in child development and sociology provide accepted social scientific evidence that lesbian and gay parents are as fit, effective and successful as different-sex parents are. Judith Stacy & Timothy J. Biblarz, (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of
    Parents Matter, 66 Am. Soc. Rev. 159, 160 (April 2001).

    “The Commonwealth takes several quotes from this article by Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz completely out of context in support of its argument preferencing heterosexual parenting. First, their statement that the “only theory of child development we can imagine in which a child’s sexual development would bear no relationship to parental genes, practices, environment, or beliefs would be an arbitrary one,” is completely misconstrued. Defs.’ Memo. at 63. Far from asserting that optimal child-rearing is with a mother and a father, Stacey’s and Biblarz’s point by that quote was to highlight their concern that social science researchers have shied away from discussing differences in child-rearing between gay and lesbian parents and their non-gay counterparts because of “heterosexism” “that accepts heterosexual parenting as the gold standard.” Stacy & Biblarz, 66 Am. Soc. Rev. at 162. Rejecting that orthodoxy, Stacey and Biblarz closely examined 21 psychological studies published between 1981 and 1998 that addressed the question of how sexual orientation of parents affects their children to determine whether there were any differences, not simply whether there were any deficits as previous researchers had focused upon.”

  19. Jason Says:

    Last I checked there are plenty of sexually active and experimentive people out there raised by heterosexual parents. Ever seen Real Sex on HBO? There’s only 25+ episodes. Can we all stop pretending we are a chaste society?

    Who are we kidding? Half of all heterosexual marriages in this country end in divorce. Think that doesn’t mess up the children of straight parents? How about all the kids not born into married families? I know more than a few kids raised by single mothers who are well adjusted contributing members of society. There are a lot of damaged people out there folks, and its not because of homosexuality.

    Ever consider just maybe, that there have been unmarried homosexuals raising kids for years already? Society seems to have been rolling right along. Of the few gay people I know, they all had heterosexual married parents, some quite religious. Didn’t seem to matter one bit.

    Take one quick surf around the web, there’s plenty of sex (of all kinds) to go around. I’m not buying that there will be long term consequences to society. Even a casual student of history knows this stuff has gone on for centuries. Straight people have raised plenty of murderers, thieves, rapists and so on, doesn’t mean it’s because they are straight.

    The fallacy that there is a so called normal family is ridiculous. If people want to go on believeing its all Ozzie and Harriet everywhere then there’s not much point in discussing it. Stick your head back in the sand. Then you don’t have to see what you don’t want to see.

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