Archive for ConCon

Making Ballot Initiatives Saner

Rep. Denise Provost (27th Somerville) strikes the right and essential note with me. She is in for the long fight, if necessary, to make the ballot initiative process more reasonable and better for us all.

She joined us to speak to her bill H1830 and complementing legislation such as S12. These would bring us in line with other states as well as the original aims of plebiscites to amend our MA constitution or repeal and add laws.

Her 1830 would up the requirement to get an initiative in the works from 3% of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to 7%. She is quick to note that not only is our current requirement the lowest among the 24 states and D.C. that have a form of the process, but that with fewer and fewer citizens actually casting ballots, the 7% roughly equals our original requirements. In our current system, about 1% of eligible voters can drive a petition to ballot. She explained the history of MA’s process from 1917.

Rep. Provost discussed how overly easy initiatives are “an end run about the legislative process,” without the public process and very little transparency. Particularly in the new post-Citizens United era, she noted that such ballots are “less and less about people and more and more about money.”

She delves into the criticisms of H1830 and S12 that would limit the subject matter for initiatives. For example, some groups chant, “Let the people vote!” and call increasing the signature requirements an “onerous” way of limiting grassroots democracy. In addition, she spoke to how interest groups have used paid signature gatherers to skew the process under the pretext of citizen movements.

Listen in as she decries “how our democratic process can be highjacked.” She also forecasts the current bills, which if they do not advance, will appear in the next legislative session.

I join her in a call to let people know, folk you influence and your legislators, that you support reforms here.


icon for podpress  Denise Provost [32:23m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


MA Dems’ John Walsh Podcast

As always, MA Dem Party Chair John Walsh was looking forward to the next battles — particularly the 2012 elections. He joins the podcast about six minutes in and covered a lot of politics quickly.

Listen in by clicking below. He describes how and why U.S. Sen. Scott Brown won the special election in this bluest of states…and why Dems can retake it. He runs down who might run for the seat for the full term. He also speaks who won’t be running.

We kicked around the meaning of over half the commonwealth’s voters being unenrolled. Yet many vote Dem.

We’ll have to do it again soon. We didn’t even get to strategies for the upcoming campaigns.

icon for podpress  John Walsh [31:16m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Crade-to-Grave Equality Podcast

“I’m a big believer that most people are reachable and most people are fair,” MassEquality‘s new executive director, Kara Suffredini, told us. That will certainly make her vision for the rights group work best.

suffredini1.jpgShe is the vision person, brought in as the board chair, Sara Whitman says, to “bring us to the next level of LGBT advocacy in Massachusetts.” That’s a remarkable goal in a state that in many ways leads the nation in LGBT advances. Suffredini herself announces her vision as including cradle-to-grave protections and rights from kids in schools through seniors.

Listen in as she tells us of the state and future of these efforts. She quickly notes that with established marriage equality and numerous protections on the books Mass Equality has a great opportunity. Rather than strive for these basics, it an consider whom to work with and what tactics are most effective.

While the organization focuses primarily on education and legislation, instead of litigation, “every movement matters to us,” she says. That is particularly important in meeting those education and legislation goals. Most MassEquality members and supporters “exist in other movements,” she says.

Suffredini spoke of some related national issues, such as Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, and regional ones, such as being a model and working with regional and other states in advancing rights broadly. She also homed in on work needed here, such as teen suicide prevention and making sure the nearly-passed transgender-rights bill makes it next time.

Among the current crunches is working to keep a high balance of LGBT-supportive legislators here. That’s a risk as our system requires a supermajority of 151 of 200 to squealch hostile ballot initiatives.  Also, a lot of General Court seats are in play this election. Her organization lists its endorsements on its website.

As well as the MassEquality link for those who want to give “their time and treasure,” as she puts it, Suffredini cites:

icon for podpress  Kara Suffredini [56:41m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Marc Solomon on Next Podcast

UPDATED SKED: We have rescheduled Marc Solomon to Tuesday, September 4th at 2:30 p.m.

We eagerly look forward to having Marc Solomon on next week’s podcast. As Campaign Director for MassEquality, he was key in framing the issues and leading the fight against the amendment to stop same-sex marriages here.

We discuss the recent victory a bit, but more on the struggles underway. We want to know what he sees for himself and his organization, but also where he sees other activists needed.

You can listen live Tuesday from 2:30 p.m. or check back here for a link to listen or download the podcast any time after that.


Love & Liberty Podcast

Lynne came in a little over half way through — she had been at the candidate’s debate in the 5th CD race for U.S. House. She said it was the closest they had had to a slug fest so far, but that no one walked away a clear winner.

Victory Lap

To start the podcast, Ryan and Mike celebrated the defeat of the amendment aimed at stopping same-sex marriages here. They looked at the aftermath from two angles — a little on what the anti-gay/anti-SSM forces might do next, and a lot on the type of legislation needed to prevent abuse of ballot initiatives, gaming the system. They dealt with the 1913 laws used to forbid out-of-state homosexual couples from marrying here.

Posts of the Week

It’s a circle in a spiral and such. Mike’s blog post of the week is another blog citing a blog/activism thingummy. One of his favorite GBLT sites is Pam’s House Blend. She alerted us to a new personal activism site, Fight OUT Loud. She cites the two gay men who acted when a Ft. Lauderdale airport employee began broadcasting homophobic rants over the loudspeakers. In Turning a negative experience into positive action, Pam points to the new self-help and help others site from law professor Anthony Niedwiecki and his partner of six years, Waymon Hudson. Not only did they demand and get action from the airport officials and the police, their site will collect stories and provide specific procedures for following through when confronted like they were.

Ryan’s Blog of the Week is from Towleroad. Amazingly, South America’s Columbia has leap frogged most of America on GLBT-rights, allowing Civil-Union type laws that,

offer same-sex couples rights equal to heterosexual married couples in the areas of health insurance, social security and inheritance benefits.

Heck, as discussed in today’s podcast, we don’t even offer social security rights in our same-sex marriages from Massachusetts – because of the federal law DOMA. That news is more exciting than a pot of hot Columbian-bean coffee in the morning. Freedom’s marching.

Fear of Gloating

The other citation Mike had was for a truly bizarre podcast available at Mike Heath’s Christian Education League in Maine. The local anti-gay/anti-marriage equality Brian Camenker called Heath with, as he says, “You know you can hear the gays gloating in the background,” moments after the ConCon defeated the amendment last week. Who know gloating was so loud?

Camenker dropped all pretense of liberty and made it plain he just wanted to punish homosexuals. He called them and homosexual unions “innately destructive” and stated that the Vote on Marriage folk lost because they didn’t directly attack homosexuality. He called the GBLT one of the “totalitarian movements” like Nazism or Soviet Communism. He called for a “complete overhaul of our approach,” adding that his side needed to do anything it could to defeat GBLT civil rights efforts “because they’re doing to do horrible things to you.”

If you have the patience and stomach, or just need to be astonished, you can click over to the site and listen to the Homosexual Totalitarianism podcast. There you can find out what he and Heath think Christian education involves.

icon for podpress  Love & Liberty in Massachusetts [64:49m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Massachusetts Still Marrying

There’s copious coverage of the terrific victory for civil rights and equality yesterday, the stopping of the amendment initiative aimed at stripping homosexual couples of the right to wed here. Of course, each of the three of us has a take. Check:

Otherwise, head to Lefty Blogs and Blue Mass Group, for all you can eat, er, read and in some cases hear.

There shall shortly be tales of heroics, by lobbyists and that small group of legislators who moved their positions and votes for equality.

I’ll have some next-steps suggestions for the legislature and governor. Not today though. This is a weekend for praising the righteous, savoring the huge win, and as they like to say down in Louisiana, laissez les bons temps roulez!

Podcast Note: We’ll certainly have a podcast Tuesday and this victory and follow-up will surely dominate. More details will follow. We do know that this coming week, June 19th, we’ll stream the podcast live from 8 to 9 p.m.



Today is the Big Day: Constitutional Convention Time

Your support is needed. If you aren’t busy, come to the State House. People will be there all day.

What’s just as important – and far easier for anyone – is to call your state Rep and Senator. I can’t do that for you, but I can point you to this handy tool which will show you exactly who you legislator is and how they can be contacted in no time. Even if your legislator is pro-marriage, call them anyway. Thank them for their support and tell them to do everything in their power to protect equality. There are different levels of support; we’re looking for the “full support” kind.

No one likes to make unnecessary phone calls, but keep this in mind:

One phone call is worth 100 emails – quite literally. So, ignite the flames of your democratic spirit and get calling, before 10 am if you can help it. If you wait much longer than that, your legislator will be gone and it won’t do any good.



Stout Hearts Podcast

The Left Ahead! trio formally (as formal as we can get) endorsed Jamie Eldridge for the 5th U.S. Congressional District special election to replace Rep. Marty Meehan. You can look on our three websites for more detailed arguments, but we concur that he shows the leadership, the breadth of understanding of the issues, the progressive positions, and the strength of heart and character the role and these times demand.

We started early with updates and the best projections we could on Thursday’s ConCon session coming up. That brought in a caller, Wayne from St. Louis. He was concerned about whether being against same-sex marriage branded him (at least to us) as homophobic. We answered that strongly and he concluded that the issue didn’t directly affect him, so he could see living and letting live.

For a blog post of the week, Mike surprised himself by favoring Outraged Liberal at Massachusetts liberal again. LOL at The Paris Hilton presidency. There’s an all too apt comparison of two spoiled rich kids goofing up and expecting their parents to rescue them, yet again. Then get more serious as the blogger notes “It’s obvious a lot of the national obsession and her pals Britney, Lindsay and the late Anna Nicole is overload from the arrogant failings of the Bush administration. Many Americans would rather escape into the fantasy world of over-exposed celebrities than deal with the reality of Iraq.”

Ryan’s Blog of the Week comes from Chris Mason, over at Take Mass Action. He had a great run down of all the constitutional conventions, titled “Constitutional Convention – Part 17.” If anyone is interested in the history we have going here, it’s a great blog to read. Like Chris Mason, Ryan is sick of these ConCons and would rather spend his time doing “a million other things,” but you’ll see Ryan, Chris Mason and Mike there this Thursday too, as well as hundreds of others, fighting for equal rights.

icon for podpress  Faint Hearts/Stout Hearts [65:55m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


DINOs and Diehards for Your Ears

Ryan and Lynne both went to the 5th Congressional District candidates’ forum in Hudson last Saturday. Again, Jamie Eldridge set himself apart from the other candidates. He had a firm single-payer and now attitude while opponents had a wait-and-see on the Massachusetts plan or a free-market view.

Whether that becomes a hot button with voters remains to be seen. This is key, particularly as some established pols, such as U.S. Rep. Barney Frank endorsed (just today) Niki Tsongas. This district is really out of Barney’s turf, and his position on issues such as health care are closer to Jamie’s than Niki’s. TBD.

There’ll be at least one more candidate forum. See Dick Howe’s blog for details. July 18th, Monday, at 8:30 a.m., candidates will be at UMASS Lowell for a breakfast forum.

To the anti-marriage-equality amendment initiative coming up at this month’s ConCon, maybe as early as June 14th, all three Left Ahead! podcasters concluded that we must stop it anyway we can. We see huge power in new Senate President Therese Murray’s hands. All she need do is act like the past several in her position and dictate what happens to this dreadful attempt to write discrimination into our constitution for the first time, going back to colonial days. We are nearly at 75% of the legislators opposed to advancing this awful attempt to strip a minority of existing rights. Killing it procedurally is fine with us.

Lynne’s post of the week was Blue Mass Group’s Charley on the MTA posting on Firedoglake, a popular national blog. Shifting the Health Care Discussion: The Obama Plan was diving into this national pool, something Lynne thinks we local bloggers should do more often. Charley discussed Sen. Obama’s plans and concluded with a call to action, “Considering the fierce mix of special interests involved, there’s no way our politicians will do any of the right things without massive pressure from the outside.”

Mike’s blog post of the week is a grand compare-and-contrast essay on two multi-millionaires by Outraged Liberal at Massachusetts Liberal, a.k.a. baystateliberal. A Tale of Two Salesmen has the moral of how you know people by their deeds.

The prototypical carpetbagger, Bain Capital co-founder Willard Mitt Romney stands in firm contrast to adman and co-founder of Hill, Holliday, Connors and Cosmopoulos Jack Connors. They both have lived by sales and persuasion. Romney hits and runs, taking his cash with him. Connors was born and raised, and still lives, here. He has never stopped helping Boston, and, as we think of him now, is adding starting summer camps for poor kids to his good works.

Ryan’s Blog of the Week is Joe’s diary over at Blue Mass Group. For a very long time, he’s been a conservative person and a religious person. However, he’s finally realized that his Catholicism and gay marriage have nothing to do with each other – and I’m proud to say, just days before the upcoming Constitutional Convention, has switched positions and now favors marriage equality. Let’s hope the rest of the state – and especially a few legislators – do the same.

icon for podpress  DINOs and Diehards [53:01m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Some Things Get Better

Yesterday’s podcast with Susan Ryan-Vollmar found me babbling briefly about the old days — the mid-1960s in Greenwich Village. Maybe nothing’s more boring than hearing about how it used to be, but maybe that can be a useful perspective.

As a married lesbian mother, Susan certainly has her own investment in the pending drive to put an amendment in our commonwealth constitution stopping same-sex marriage. Among her concerns is that her kids not get subjected to a year and a half of screaming about how they are inferior because of their home life, their two moms.

In his early 20s and openly gay, Ryan is impatient with social progress. He also expects his generation and the next to drive the anti-gay old farts out of the state house, as well as crushing any anti-equality legislation that lawmakers or citizens might promote. As a long-term Democratic and progressive activist in her early 30s, Lynne is neither as pessimistic as Susan, who considers that the amendment might advance and might even pass nor as optimistic as Ryan about Massachusetts’ gay friendliness of the near future.

Feeling Hoary

In the midst of all this, as an early boomer, I recalled my own experiences as well as those of my gay friends from the sand box onward. One was my summer and vacation buddy from pre-school. He lived in a small town in farming country in West Virginia. He was quite literally a boy in the band. He was bright and funny and nice. Most people figured he was a homosexual early on, but nobody beat him up. Many boys avoided him. He didn’t speak about his sexual identity and any feelings of isolation, even with me, until our early 20s. That’s a little sad. We did share everything else. He was likely 99.44% sure it would not be a problem, but in the spirit of the times, he kept quiet.

Back to the 1960s, the old stereotype of the mincing, lisping queen lived in Greenwich Village. I had grown up in Virginia and elsewhere knowing women in Boston marriages. They did not affect identifying mannerisms. Again, in the spirit of the times, the behaviors that produced such films as Boys in the Band had some basis. In that period at home in New Jersey, I was aware that homosexuals or suspected ones, male or female, might get assaulted. There was certainly no overt gay-rights movement to provide protection and equality.

As Ryan and Susan note, things are better here and in many urban areas, but in many parts of the country, it’s still not safe to be out. I lament our social retardation, as the rest of the First World seems to pass us in equality and egalitarianism.

Another friend from college grew up as the oldest of 12 children in South Carolina. He and a brother are gay. They are Black. It wasn’t always easy for them growing up and they were cautious. Both moved far from Columbia to be adults. My chum lives in Somerville, where it seems OK to be out. He makes a great and active godfather to one of my boys. I solemnized his marriage. That is all life as it should be.

Not There Yet

Last night, we podcasters kicked around the dueling ideas of how far we have come in gay rights and how far we have to go for real equality. I confess that I held the idea in college and shortly after that my generation would continue its progressive behavior. A funny thing happened on the way to equality. Not only have the boomers aged predictably toward conservative political leanings, but many were never involved in the early struggles. They never marched for civil rights or to end war or for women’s rights or for gay rights. They were bystanders, voyeurs who had many of their parents’ ideals.

Perhaps I’m foolish again with Ryan’s generation. Yet, poll after poll of those in their teens and 20s are promising. Not only are those groups not anti-gay, they are indifferent. They don’t feel any threat from two homosexuals marrying and getting the benefits thereof. They may be impossible to manipulate with fear or hate.

Now, if we can quash this amendment thing one way or another, we can get onto real issues that need addressing.


P.S. I should cross-post this at Marry in Massachusetts. I’ve walked back onto my own turf.