Although the announcement that Massachusetts Senate President Robert E. Travaglini
his post tomorrow caught me by surprise, it has apparently long been anticipated by political insiders. It is virtually certain that Travaglini will be succeeded by Plymouth Democrat Therese Murray
(pictured left), who will become the first woman ever to preside over the Massachusetts Senate as president.
Murray, a liberal who presided over the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has been an ardent advocate of social programs and liberal issues, such as same-sex marriage. Her rise to the Senate presidency is sure to be greeted with dismay by those hoping to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, effectively reversing the Goodridge
decision, which recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry back in 2004.
Last November, it appeared as if the issue were dead when the legislature recessed without voting on a petition initiative to place same-sex marriage on the ballot in 2008. I myself thought that the fight was finally over
. However, Romney’s grandstanding paid off when, as a result of a lawsuit he brought, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court held on December 27
that the legislature had a constitutional obligation to vote on the petition. Although the court also conceded that they lacked the authority to force a vote, the court’s talk of “constitutional duty” was enough to scare legislators into voting on the petition when the constitutional convention reconvened on January 2.
The result, as expected, was that the petition received enough votes to advance
to the next legislative session, after which it would—if it received 50 votes—be placed on the 2008 ballot. Travaglini was among those who voted to advance the petition. Murray voted against it. Moreover, Travaglini could have used his authority as Senate president to adjourn the convention without voting on the petition. After all, the court’s ruling that the legislature has a constitutional duty to vote on all ballot questions brought by petition initiative wasn’t compelling enough to produce a vote on another citizen-led ballot initiative, the Health Care Amendment
, which sought to amend the constitution to ensure “that every Massachusetts resident has access to affordable, comprehensive and equitably financed coverage for medically necessary health and mental health care services.”
A date for the next constitutional convention has not yet been set, but it will most likely begin this Spring. I myself have been dreading
it, as it seemed unlikely that a convention presided over by Travaglini would almost certainly put same-sex marriage on the 2008 ballot. With Travaglini gone and Murray in his place, all bets are off. Although it’s much too soon to declare victory—I learned my lesson last November—it doesn’t look good for opponents of same-sex marriage.
Murray promises to be much more amenable than Travaglini to derailing the amendment by legislative maneuver—in other words, what Deval Patrick referred to as “whatever means appropriate.” In his statement
to the legislature the day before his inauguration, Patrick encouraged the legislature to adjourn as a means of killing the petition once and for all. Although such a move would be controversial, Murray’s past support of same-sex marriage strongly suggests that with her in the president’s chair, an amendment turning same-sex couples into second-class citizens stands a much better chance of being defeated for good.
Labels: Robert Travaglini, same-sex marriage, Therese Murray