Friday, April 16, 2004

More Mitt 

Governor Romney's got his back to the wall, but he'll go down fighting if he needs to. today reports on yesterday's emergency legislation request from the governor, and it would appear that his latest attempt to block gay marriage has served multiple purposes to both sides of the issue.

Romney has cemented his image for his conservative supporters. Each time a strong opponent of gay marriage has acknowledged that the SJC decision is going to stand despite what they want, or changed their minds on the issue entirely, that person has received strong criticism from their previously ardent supporters. The governor instead is receiving praise from those supporters and shifting the blame onto everyone else, especially if they happen to be Democrats.

On the other hand, Romney has also cemented his image for those who disagree with him, and in doing so has clarified the weakness of his position. A while back I commented that when the pressure is on, people can be counted on to drop the polish and show their unvarnished positions. Another phenomenon that goes along with this is that as those positions are stated more clearly, their flaws and sometimes their desperation also become more clear.

Romney is now reaching out in all possible directions to justify his actions. He claims that because the legislature has not yet changed the wording of the marriage laws to come in line with the SJC decision, it is up to him to take action:

‘‘I believe the reason that the court gave 180 days to the Legislature [following its ruling] was to allow the Legislature the chance to look through all of the laws developed over the centuries and see how they should be adjusted or clarified for purposes of same-sex marriage; the Legislature didn’t do that,’’ Romney said. ‘‘Without an extension of the stay, it leaves to the executive branch . . . the responsibility to sort out as well as we can how we can interpret and execute these laws.’’

So what is he saying? That he's not trying to block gay marriage, he's just trying to make sure the laws are changed to comply with the court's decision? He has specifically stated that his goal is to prevent these marriage from occurring, not to ensure the statutes are appropriately adjusted. The arguments against the SJC's decision in Goodridge are often founded on an allegation that the court is trying to usurp the role of the legislature (even though decisions regarding constitutionality of laws is indeed the role of the court), but the Governor is now specifically trying to do the legislature's job, and stating as much. Of course yesterday he stated that to do so would require the law to be changed, "in just this one case."

Not satisfied with blaming the legislature, he's also blaming Attorney General Tom Reilly and the Massachusetts governmental structure itself:

Yesterday, Romney complained that under current law, he has to rely on Reilly to petition the court — ‘‘someone independently elected that happens to be from another party.’’

‘‘Look, people that don’t have any income are entitled to representation. Everyone in the Commonwealth is entitled to representation, but somehow as governor of the Commonwealth it’s deemed that I can’t represent my view before the courts. I think that’s a mistake,’’ Romney said.

Where to begin? As governor, he is not without representation. As he stated, he is represented by the Attorney General. The structure of the Commonwealth calls for the governor's representative to be publically elected, not appointed. For someone who claims to be all about letting the people choose, letting the people decide, and abiding by the will of the people, he seems rather upset that he has to rely on the representative chosen by the people, who doesn't share his view on the legal issues. Our elected representatives aren't there to parrot our opinions, and neither is the Atty. General there to heed the orders of the governor without question. Ideally, elected representatives consider the opinions of their constituents (and those opinions can be all over the spectrum on any issue), but also to consider the law, the common good, public policy concerns, and the big picture in general.

Once again, Arline Isaacson of the Mass. Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, sums it up well when she:

said Romney was ‘‘beginning to act like a religious zealot.’’

‘‘He won’t let go of this, even when the attorney general, who doesn’t support gay marriage, who fought it tooth and nail, is saying that there is no legal basis to pursue this in court,’’ Isaacson said. ‘‘We’re going to work very hard, of course, to kill this in the Legislature, and we think we have a very good chance of being able to do so.’’

Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:51 AM