Massachusetts' highest court has tossed a Republican lawsuit to force a gay marriage ballot amendment in the circular file. Coming just a few weeks before Deval Patrick takes the governor's oath and Massachusetts becomes completely dominated by Democrats for the first time since the Dukakis era, the decision effectively casts legal gay marriage rights in stone. December 2006: Best month for gay marriage ever.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that it had no authority to order the Legislature to vote on a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage, but the justices gave Governor Mitt Romney a symbolic victory by scolding lawmakers for shirking "their lawful obligations."
Over at TPM Cafe, Eric Kleefield surveys the damage to hammy Gov. Romney.
[A]ides to Romney are seeking to spin the loss into a victory that social conservatives would approve of, pointing to a few words in the decision that scold the legislators for their inaction. Romney aides somewhat desperately declared that the court "confirmed once and for all that the Legislature has a constitutional duty to vote on the marriage amendment and that any failure to do so would be a violation of their oaths of office."
Despite the tough talk, this defeat is the last thing Romney's camp had hoped for. After all, it isn't long before the social-conservative activists Romney is courting realize that he suffered a total, ignominious defeat on what has become his biggest issue, and doesn't actually have a single conservative accomplishment to show for all his troubles.
This is right; it was a big part of Romney's campaign ramp-up to convince voters he'd moved right on gay issues and abortion. That brings up two questions.
1) Why, in order to become a viable 2008 candidate, is a Democrat expected to break with his party's left while a Republican's supposed to cuddle with his party's right? (I think I know why, but I'll throw it out there.)
2) Uh, one term as governor and no serious conservative accomplishments? Why is Romney considered such a serious presidential candidate? (Don't say it's because he never raised taxes; you could credibly argue that he was worse on taxes than Democrats like Bill Richardon and Phil Bredesen.)