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

March 26, 2007

Open Letter to Senator Panagiotakos

by at 9:00 am.

If You Can’t Vote No, Abstain

Dear Senator Panagiotakos,
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, which I can only presume is a personal religious one, and despite the fact it saddens me greatly, I have to respect that.

You have been strongly progressive on a lot of issues and I’ve been proud of your work more often that I’ve disagreed with you. It is your progressive spirit I appeal to now.

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

I understand that you cannot 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 your 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 going on 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 religious 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

January 17, 2007

MassEquality Lowell Meeting

by at 4:56 pm.

David posted about a series of community meetings being held by MassEquality, one of which is in Lowell, at Brew’d Awakenings, 61 Market Street, on January 25 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. I’m a huge supporter of MassEquality, and recommend attending. Our GLBT friends need our help to retain their equal rights. This is the first step in putting the last nail in the coffin of hate.

January 4, 2007

The Hypocrisy of the Legislature

by at 5:05 pm.

While I was rather for killing the gay marriage hate amendment at ConCon this past Tuesday, because I believe a constitutional amendment should not be able to move forward with the low bar that ballot initiatives allow (and I’m deeply disappointed by two of our legislators in Lowell for voting Yes), the legislature apparently can live with the cognitive dissonance required to vote up or down on one amendment but to kill the other by procedure.

The health care constitutional amendment, introduced via the same flawed process - ballot initiative - that the anti-gay bigots used, was sent back to committee, effectively killing it. It was the second ConCon that this amendment was up for a vote, meaning it would have been on the 2008 ballot if passed by 50 of 200 legislators. That amendment was fairly simple: enshrine fair, affordable, quality health care as a right of every citizen of Massachusetts.

I particularly noted this from the editorial: “Blogger David Kravitz of Blue Mass Group reports that, after Spilka cast her vote against bringing up the amendment, Travaglini’s voice was picked up by an open mic saying, “Good girl.’” Thanks, Trav, for allowing us a glimpse into your crooked leadership. As Charley notes, Travaglini “allowed the anti-marriage amendment to come up…voted for it…and then had the health care amendment killed without a vote.” You can’t get more wrong then that.

By the way, none of our legislators in Lowell voted to discharge the health care amendment from committee, effectively killing it. I’d like to have an explanation why they think health care shouldn’t be a right for all Commonwealth citizens. I’m particularly keen to know why they think it was fair for my family to spend 6 years without health care insurance because we couldn’t afford it, but made too much money to qualify as below or near the poverty line. Or why other average Massachusetts residents like us suffer financially-crippling medical bills or go without care even as I post this. Senator Panagiotakos? Reps. Nangle, Golden and Murphy? Care to explain to the people you represent why this amendment wasn’t needed, and why the legislature voted to weaken the other health care bill considerably (and produce a sure-to-be chronically underfunded mandate)?

[Editorial via Blue Mass Group]

(Note to self - remember to spellcheck titles.)

January 2, 2007

A Disappointing Day!

by at 7:29 pm.

What a disappointing day! I did not see it coming. The Massachusetts legislature voted 61 to 132 to advance a balance question that will in effect deny our neighbors the same rights we have. This amendment is not simply anti-gay but it goes against the principles of fairness and equality.

So 1/3 of the membership of the State Legislature decided that it is alright for the majority to decide through a constitutional amendment to limit the civil rights of a minority. Along the way, giving Mitt Romney (who is really getting on my nerves) a political victory, something he will use quite well in Iowa.

As expected the Lowell delegation vote was split. Locally, Representative Kevin Murphy and Representative Tom Golden voted against putting the initiative on the ballot and Representative David Nangle and State Senator Steve Panagiatakos voted in favor.

I urge all of you to contact them and let them know how you feel; especially Reps Murphy and Golden, who may have been under some pressure from the religious, conservative, activist elements in our City to vote in favor. They understood that you do not protect the rights of minorities by having the majority vote on the nature of those rights. (more…)

November 10, 2006

Thank Sal DiMasi - He Deserves It

by at 2:48 pm.

TakeMassAction’s Chris has a call on his blog to call and thank Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi on his work protecting the rights of gay couples. I’m just going to quote him:

Yesterday morning we did not have the votes needed to win at the constitutional convention. Speaker DiMasi went to work, calling legislators into his office one by one. He got us the votes needed to win.

Please call Speaker DiMasi right away and thank him for the work that he did to secure equal marriage rights in Massachusetts.

Without Speaker DiMasi wrangling votes we would not have won yesterday.

I just called his office to thank him. His aide said that he is receiving a flood of calls admonishing him for his vote to protect equal marriage.

Call Speaker DiMasi right now at 617-722-2500. Thank him for his vote and all the work he did to protect equal marriage rights.

Remember, the tactics of the right wingers was base and crass to begin with. Using this loophole to get a lower bar to amending the Constitution is the first big mistake, but they also committed a lot of fraud to get people to sign the petition in the first place. The tactic of closing the ConCon without a vote is perfectly legitimate, in protecting this very important civil right for our friends.

November 9, 2006

To the Legislature: Fix the Amendment Loophole NOW

by at 11:29 am.

Today is ConCon day, when either the legislature will vote up or down on the gay marriage amendments before them, or parlimentarily kill the stupid things once and for all.

I’ve mentioned on several occasions before why I oppose the concept of ballot initiatives in the first place; I am no expert on child care, English immersion, or even whether or not the state can responsibly roll back the income tax. That’s why I elect people to the state house - so they can form committees, study issues carefully (hopefully), and make decisions based on expert advice. A ballot initiative, though at first shake seems like the most direct democracy, really isn’t the best way to govern. If we don’t like what the legislature is doing we can always unelect them, and it’s our own damn fault if we’re too complacent not to (in fact, that same complacency is why ballot initiatives are so dangerous).

After reading a good comment on BMG, I’ve decided the only type of ballot initiatives I would accept is initiatives that affect the democratic process itself - such as the fusion voting init that was on Tuesday’s ballot. Because incumbent politicians have a vested interest in keeping their seats, they have an inherent conflict of interest that cannot be mitigated and therefore it is imperative the people have a direct chance to change it. We want a more competitive system; they do not. IRV (instant runoff voting) would never pass if it were up to the two parties now in power. Er, mostly one party to be truthful. (I still can’t get over the fact that the Republicans lost more seats in the state house. Talk about incompetence and bad luck combined.)

But back to the real point of this post, which is about the constitutional amendment being considered before the MA Constitutional Convention today.

The fact is, the founders of our country put up a high bar for amending the constitution - both the federal one and those in the states. If it’s a simple matter to amend the highest legal document in the land, then the document has very little meaning. Now, this high bar meant a harder fight for civil rights, suffrage, and the like, but it also means that once a right becomes enshrined in the Constitution, it’s harder to rescind too. But if the document changed every generation or less, going back and forth on a single issue several times, not only would that become a legal mess, but those rights would not be held sacred.

One of the amendments the ConCon is considering today got there by citizen petition. Anti-equality idiots on the fringe of Massachusetts society, along with their allies from out of state, bought their way into the process - literally. They paid people to amass enough signatures to get this petition, and achieved their goal (throw enough money and manpower to the problem, and it’s pretty easy).

Because this heinous anti-gay amendment is going through, as I understand it, the ballot initiative process, the bar is lowered for getting it onto the ballot for a vote by the public. It will amend the Massachusetts Constitution, but it only needs 50 of the 200 state legislators’ votes in two subsequent ConCons. Not 2/3 of a yea vote. Not even a simple majority. Twenty-five percent. That’s it - and then a simple majority of the voting public.

That bar is far too low. I insist that we fix this loophole NOW. It doesn’t belong in the process. That’s partly why I support the parliamentary procedure the legislature may try to use to kill the amendment before it ever gets a vote in ConCon. It shouldn’t be up there in that form in the first place.

I propose that the procedure be thus: if we must retain the ballot initiative process (and can we examine that too?), that process cannot be used for amending the state constitution. Or, if it can be used to propose an amendment, it must have the same bar as for any other constitutional amendment, which is, correct me if I’m wrong, a 2/3 vote in two subsequent ConCons before appearing before the public for a simple majority vote. No more special interest money using the ballot initiative process to attempt to dilute the constitutional amendment procedure from here on out.

Perhaps Governor-elect Patrick can propose this in his first six months of office?

November 4, 2006

Look Out - Anti-Gay ConCon Next Thursday

by at 12:10 pm.

What the heck prompted Travelini to schedule the resumption of the Constitutional Amendment two days after a big gubernatorial election? Was he hoping the activists working on campaigns wouldn’t notice or have time to react? If the legislature was so eager to get this over with, they wouldn’t have postponed it until the fall in the first place. Awfully convenient, the legislature leaving it off until 2 days after the reelection of many of its members.

Mike has lots of details as well.

We know that Rep. Tom Golden has recently had a change of heart and isn’t willing to undo the equality that gay couples have gained, and I’m pretty sure Rep. Murphy’s on our side (can anyone confirm that?) to vote against the constitutional amendment. Rep. Nangle is almost a lost cause, but if he’s your Rep then give his office a polite but firm call on the matter (vote NO on item 19 & 20). The big issue is Senator Panagiotakos. Now, I know his deal is because of his religion; however, I believe he could be convinced of the veracity of separating his religion from civil public policy. Gay marriage in Massachusetts is entirely a civil institution; no one is asking any religion to give up its freedom of assembly - despite the fact we’d love to see them join the 21st century, it’s not our place to tell them what to do. So, how about it, Senator? Do we want to go backwards and lose equality for vulnerable members of our Commonwealth, or can we finally say that civil marriage is a seperate thing from religious conviction and our gay brothers and sisters deserve the same protection the rest of us have?

Due to the silly nature of ballot initiatives as I understand it, the anti-SSM forces only need 50 votes on item 20 (amendment to cut off future SSM’s from occurring but leaves already-hitched gays their rights). It is imperative you call Senator Panagiotakos and voice your opposition to amending the constitution to go backwards in equal rights. Emphasize the nature of civil marriage; if you, like me, are married only via civil ceremony, ask him if he believes you had the right to choose not to get married in any church…we are asking that people, gays and heterosexuals, be able to choose civil marriage, and we are not asking that religions be forced to acknowledge them. It is the civil rights and protections which gays sought, and the sky has not fallen since. Massachusetts’ gay couples deserve this, their families deserve this. And they have shown that they are no different than we are in love…and marriage.

Rep. Nangle: 617-722-2020 or 978-454-1326
Sen. Panagiotakos: 617-722-1630

October 10, 2006

Boston “Justice Sunday”-Like Rightwing Event

by at 9:40 am.

This Sunday, October 15, rightwing gay bashing is coming to Boston in the form of “Liberty Sunday: Defending Our First Freedom” at Tremont Temple Baptist Church, 7pm. This nationwide broadcast will feature none other than a video appearance by Mitt Romney (by video, probably, because he spends so little time in Massachusetts he won’t be around that day). His wife will intro his anti-gay “marriage-defending” video - right on time for the mid-term elections, to rile up what little base isn’t totally disgusted by Republican coverups of certain pedophile sex scandals.

Anyone else had enough yet?

September 29, 2006

Judge Rules In Favor of RI Gay Couple

by at 12:09 pm.

It’s not the end of the battle for gay rights, but a Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of a gay couple from Rhode Island that they have a right to marry in Massachusetts. In particular, because RI doesn’t ban gay couples from marrying with one of those anti-family “DOMA” laws that a lot of backwards states have adopted.

HT: Kristin at the Fray.

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