I write to share a wonderful moment in the long march of human wisdom and to
thank you again for electing me to play a part in it.
Today, the combined House and Senate in a Constitutional Convention voted to
reject the proposed constitutional amendment which would take away the
freedom to marry from gays and lesbians.
The final vote really wasn’t close, with only 45 legislators voting to put
the amendment on the ballot. The Constitution requires that 50 legislators
vote for a proposed amendment in order for it to reach the ballot. In fact,
I believe that there were additional votes that the Speaker could have taken
away from the amendment if he had needed them.
After months of maneuvering, the actual convention lasted less than 15
minutes. The House was called to order. The Sergeant at Arms announced and
ushered in the Senators, who crowded together down in the well of the House
After putting on her glasses and taking gavel in hand and calling the
convention to order, the Senate President immediately brought the question
to a vote. The Clerk of the Senate called the roll of Senators, revealing
two previous yes-voting Senators abandoning the question, leaving only 5
Senators in support.
Then the speaker opened the House roll call board for voting. As the lights
went on – red for ‘no’ and green for ‘yes’ — I was one of a team of
legislators each monitoring one column of the six columns of lights for
surprises. An uncommon quiet settled on the room as all watched the
board to see how wavering legislators broke. Checking and checking again —
no surprises in the wrong direction. Two in the right direction (one that I
had spent a lot of time with). Not my job to see the big picture, just to
count that column. When the speaker closed the voting and ordered that the
tally be displayed, a cheer rose and history was made.
For an American legislature to vote so resoundingly against governmental
enforcement of traditional notions of marriage, represents a deep triumph of
humanist wisdom. Yes, the campaign was about equality and the victory is
about equality in the deepest sense. It is about allowing gays and lesbians
to hold their heads high as full citizens.
But the victory is also about tender true humanity besting wooden ideas
about what love is. Legislators who changed their votes did so mainly
because they met gay and lesbian couples who showed them that their love was
real and that their families were whole and healthy.
The victory belongs to the thousands and thousands of citizens – gay and
straight — who mobilized across the Commonwealth to let their views be
heard. The committed organizers who helped people communicate with
legislators did terribly effective work. But at the very center of the
effort were the Governor, the Speaker and the Senate President, whose
combined leadership was simply unbeatable.
It was a great privilege for me to play a small part in an historic effort.
Thank you again for electing me as your State Representative.
Now it is time for us all to come together and move on.
That an extraordinary bipartisan majority could come together on an issue so
deeply controversial should give us all hope that we may succeed as we face
the many steep challenges before us.
Here is an image of the official tally sheet from the House rollcall
machine on Thursday (Senate votes are tallied orally): House rollcall vote on marriage amendment