The Mitt Romney ’08 Presidential campaign staged a one of its first campaign commercials yesterday — unlocking the Massachusetts Statehouse gates for one of the only times since 9-11 and unfurling a huge American flag to allow Governor Romney to play his role as defender of marriage. With cameras rolling and gay marriage opponents waving their mass-produced signs and chanting “let the people vote”, Governor Mitt Romney presented himself as the defender of the faith. He declared he would demand that the Supreme Judicial Court force the Legislature to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

One problem with this perfectly stage-managed rally: it was an exercise in futility.

The Massachusetts Constitution, the same one Mitt wants to amend, empowers each branch of government to set its own rules. Romney acknowledged as much when the Constitutional Convention recessed on Nov. 9, declaring, “My options are limited, but we will explore any other alternatives that may exist to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens.”

The SJC has traditionally allowed the Legislature to set its own rules — and nothing requires lawmakers to vote. A majority of lawmakers outsmarted Romney by recessing rather than adjourning, making it impossible for him to call them back into session.

Let’s break this down. Some 170,000 people signed petitions to put the marriage question on the ballot. That’s in keeping with the requirement that supporters gather signatures from at least 3 percent of voters. To move before voters in 2008, the measure requires the support of 25 percent of legislators sitting in convention in two successive years.

That’s a pretty low bar, which often can be a good thing. But given the intense nature of this debate, focusing on civil rights, a case can be made that it enables a tyranny of the minority.

And let’s get pragmatic too: the number of marriage opponents in the Legislature is shrinking with each passing election. Isn’t that a sign people are voting on the issue,  and rejecting those who would push this divisive issue to the forefront?

Which bring us back to Romney. Gay marriage will be the defining issue of his four fruitless years in the Corner Office and he is hungering for a victory, any victory, that will play well with the Theocons who rule the Republican presidential primary process.

Look at the too-cute words of Romney mouthpiece Eric Fehrnstrom: “The governor has a constitutional role to play in making sure that the Legislature votes on matters that are brought to them by the people. He is using the bully pulpit of his office to get the Legislature to uphold its constitutional obligation.” The Legislature has failed to vote on other matters brought to them by the people. That is the nature of the process. And a non-vote is action — particularly after the number of hours that have been spent in debate.

The bully is the person who plays with the emotions of people to score political points. And a case can clearly be made that the Legislature is upholding its obligation to defend the constitution’s Declaration of Rights. Romney is spending a lot of time and state resources (who paid for the police details at yesterday’s rally?) to promote his own political agenda. This is the same governor who slashed spending on mental health services, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, nutrition programs for woman, infants and children, immunization and domestic violence prevention programs. He’s also reneging on the Commonwealth’s collective bargaining agreements.

Is it too late to recall him from office for wasting taxpayer resources for personal gain?

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