We're at a little bit of a loss as to how to contemplate this story. The Massachusetts legislature dodged the question of whether to put gay marriage on the ballot yesterday, delaying to the point where it probably won't be able to get onto the 2008 ballots. Gay activists greeted this decision with cheers and tears of joy, and we completely understand that emotion. Committed gay couples will continue to be married if they so choose, and that's what we want in the end.
But by sidestepping the issue, the Legislature has left room for arch-conservatives like exiting Governor Mitt Romney to cloak their homophobia in constitutional rhetoric. "Today, by effectively avoiding the constitutionally required vote on same-sex marriage, 109 legislators disgraced their oath of office," Romney said. Read: "I don't like gay people and I never have, but now I have the perfect excuse to complain about gay marriage without being politically incorrect."
Still, we're not above a little sleight-of-hand when it comes to getting what we want in the end, and here's why: As this article eloquently points out, the more time that gay marriage is legal, the more good examples will exist of why it should be. Gay marriage is not like abortion, which will be argued over forever because of the way it was legalized in Roe v. Wade. As positive as our abortion policies may be, you'll never see a physical example of why abortion SHOULD be legal - by nature it's regulation that hinges on what is not there. But as time goes by in Massachusetts, we will have more and more evidence that it isn't harmful, and that it in fact helps people. Then, when the time comes that it does go on the ballot (and it will, despite how many Massachusetts gay activists were rejoicing yesterday), more people will have gay families living next door, or in play group, or on the PTA. There's no way, then, that they will get enough votes to make a change. Perhaps then, too, the examples created in Massachusetts will help neighboring states realize that gay marriage isn't so apocalyptic after all.
Regardless, conservative lawmakers in Massachusetts and around the country received rejections this week they won't soon forget. To them we say, hey, it could be worse. You could be Kevin Federline.