The Massachusetts constitutional convention has adjourned, and will not reconvene until March 11. An amendment that would have defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, but that would also have created civil unions, was gaining strength and may well have passed. But legislators who favored gay marriage filibustered to prevent a vote, while legislators who opposed gay marriage angrily walked out.
This is all very interesting, of course, but I think the outcome on an amendment is a lot less important than the fact that in three months Massachusetts will begin to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples. No amendment to the Massachusetts state constitution can go before the voters for two and-a-half years. That’s enough time for suits to be filed in all 49 states calling for recognition of gay marriage. It’s also enough time for a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act to work it’s way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. We could theoretically have gay marriage imposed on the nation by a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court before Massachusetts gets a chance to vote on an amendment to its state constitution.
So what counts is that Massachusetts has let loose the process of attempted nationalization. The Massachusetts constitutional convention–contentious and fascinating as it is–is a side show. But what’s happening in Massachusetts does give a sense of just how tumultuous things are going to get when similar battles begin to spread to the states. Given the degree of conflict, the pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to create a uniform solution (i.e. to nationalize gay marriage) is going to be immense. As I see it, within a few years, we are going to have a national solution, one way or the other. Either the U.S. Supreme Court is going to nationalize gay marriage, or we are going to pass some sort of Federal Marriage Amendment. In other words, the same race going on right now in Massachusetts (between the courts and the amendment process) is going to be replicated on a national scale.