LGBT

Marriage Equality Almost Didn’t Happen: The Strange Tale Of How It All Started

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress/AP/Amy Hunt/The Daily Show

Here is the story of a camel hair coat, a horse meat bait-and-switch, two just-out-of-college conservative activists from liberal Brandeis University, a millionaire anti-gay publisher, a longtime lesbian activist who did not believe in playing by the rules, and a state senator who bluffed about her vote count and stood terrified on the state house floor waiting to see whether her colleagues would render her own family unequal.

The year was 2001. George W. Bush had just become president of the United States. During the campaign, both Bush and his opponent, Al Gore, had emphasized their strong opposition to same-sex marriage — which was prohibited in every state. While it may seem hard to believe today, even in Massachusetts polling showed that voters opposed allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry by a 50 to 39 margin.

After state court rulings in the 1990s had briefly opened the door to the possibility of same-sex marriage in Alaska and Hawaii, both states had quickly passed constitutional amendments to stop them before they began. But once a December 1999 Vermont Supreme Court ruling spurred that state’s 2000 civil union law, opponents across the country resolved to ensure that nothing similar would happen in their states. In November 2000, voters in Nebraska and Nevada overwhelmingly backed constitutional bans and activists in other states — including Massachusetts — began working to do the same.

A twisted and largely forgotten two-year saga showed the lengths to which opponents of same-sex marriage would go to get an amendment in front of Bay State voters. The underhanded and manipulative tactics utilized in the signature-gathering process set the stage for the state legislature to torpedo their efforts, paving the way for marriage equality in Massachusetts, and ultimately, for this year’s Supreme Court ruling bringing same-sex marriage to all 50 states.

Many of the key players behind the defeat of the 2001-2002 effort to amend the Massachusetts constitution to ban same-sex unions told ThinkProgress that, but for a few lucky breaks in that fight, same-sex couples in their state and 49 others might have waited years longer to see their unions equally recognized.

The Initiative Petition Of Bryan G. Rudnick

Bryan Rudnick

CREDIT: The Daily Show/Andrew Breiner

The improbable saga began in 2000 when a wealthy publisher and his wife hired a pair of graduating seniors from Brandeis University and formed a tax-exempt political organization called Massachusetts Citizens Alliance.

Jim Couture had been president of the Brandeis University College Republicans. Bryan Rudnick had founded an array of conservative organizations on campus, including a magazine he and Couture ran together.

But it was Rudnick’s Students for the Second Amendment club that had earned them national exposure. In March 2000, the club and Freedom Magazine brought NRA president Charlton Heston to campus for a lecture. That evening on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart mentioned Rudnick by name, facetiously suggesting that he had started the Students for the Second Amendment only “after his wildly successful ‘Students for the Third Amendment’ completely ended the mandatory quartering of British troops in private residences.”

The two roommates caught the attention of J. Edward Pawlick, a conservative media magnate and retired lawyer. Pawlick, who died in 2007, created and bankrolled the alliance — later renamed Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage — and made his wife its official president. Sarah “Sally” McVay Pawlick told ThinkProgress that her role was mostly ceremonial. “He [Ed] was the brains of the whole thing. I was sort of a figurehead,” she said. “I’d run around and do everything he wanted me to do.”

The Pawlicks hired Rudnick and Couture to run the organization and provided more than $1.5 million of the roughly $1.7 million budget themselves. Another $100,000 came from the Traditional Values Coalition, an SPLC-designated anti-LGBT hate group.

Couture said he left the organization in early 2001, before its constitutional amendment efforts got off the ground. Rudnick declined to be interviewed for this story.

In April 2001, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (a Boston-based pro-LGBT legal nonprofit) filed Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, a state lawsuit challenging Massachusetts’ ban on same-sex marriage. Then-executive director Gary Buseck said the Alliance’s effort actually spurred them to file the suit: “Sometimes, you think that litigation might spur an [effort to push a constitutional] amendment when otherwise there might not be one. But we knew the forces were underway, so it was not a deterrent.”

Three months later, Rudnick announced that his group would launch a citizen’s initiative petition, with the aim being a constitutional amendment on the November 2004 ballot. “The overwhelming majority of Massachusetts voters believe protecting marriage means one man and one woman,” he said. “A Protection of Marriage Amendment would clear up any confusion about the definition of marriage and would help protect Massachusetts families from litigation such as the [Goodridge] case currently pending.”

Their proposal was not just “Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),” to prohibit recognition of marriage, but a “super-DOMA” ban on marriage and other similar legal recognition. It read:

It being the public policy of this Commonwealth to protect the unique relationship of marriage in order to promote, among other goals, the stability and welfare of society and the best interests of children, only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Massachusetts. Any other relationship shall not be recognized as a marriage or its legal equivalent, nor shall it receive the benefits or incidents exclusive to marriage from the Commonwealth, its agencies, departments, authorities, commissions, offices, officials and political subdivisions. Nothing herein shall be construed to effect an impairment of a contract in existence as of the effective date of this amendment.

Amending the Massachusetts constitution is no easy task. A citizen-created initiative petition requires a large number of voter signatures and the blessing of at least one-quarter of the state legislature (in two consecutive legislatures). For Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage to get their amendment onto the ballot, they would need 57,100 signatures by the end of 2001, one quarter of the members of the state House and Senate in 2002, and then one quarter of the new legislators elected in the 2002 elections.

Rudnick told Pawlick’s own MassNews that they would do everything by the book. “This whole process is a minefield,” he explained that August. “Our lawyers are taking the time to make sure that we do everything exactly as required so that our petition is not dismissed on some technicality.”

Soon after, the state attorney general approved the marriage petition to begin signature gathering. Other initiative petition efforts were also given the green-light, including a group pushing to fight against state income taxes and another hoping to ban the slaughter of Massachusetts horses for human consumption. To advance to the next step, each group would need to collect all 57,000-plus valid signatures by November 21.

The anti-horse meat and anti-tax groups quickly signed agreements with Ballot Access Company, an Arizona-based signature gathering company run by controversial “petition king” Derrick Lee, for paid signature gathering (Despite numerous attempts, ThinkProgress was unable to reach Lee at numbers listed for his current companies).

Rudnick and his supporters began the process of collecting signatures in-house.

Truth Squad On the Case

Arline Isaacson

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHITOSE SUZUKI/Andrew Breiner

Arline Isaacson has been co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus since 1986 and has been called the Massachusetts LGBT community’s “most powerful lobbyist.” More than a decade before the Goodridge case was filed, she had helped shepherd through the nation’s second statewide non-discrimination law and defended it against an attempted recall referendum — experiences that would prove invaluable for the marriage amendment fight.

She told the other members of the newly formed Campaign for Equality coalition that, in order to stop the amendment, they needed a truth squad to follow Rudnick’s crew around the state and ask people not to sign, explaining what the amendment would really do. “It was a really unusual thing to do,” she noted, but they had pioneered the “very elaborate, labor intensive structure” in that 1989 fight.

Isaacson said she raised the first $100,000 to fund the effort, hopping that if they could prevent the proponents from getting the required signatures, the fight would be over. “We trained people in how to ask people to not sign — peacefully, respectfully,” she said. She encouraged volunteers to do anything short of breaking the law.

The early efforts were successful. Norma Shapiro, who as the legislative director of the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union was also part of the coalition working to stop the initiative petition, said the inexperience of Rudnick and his team was obvious in their early signature-gathering strategy. “In Massachusetts anyway, I think it would have been pretty hard to get all of the signatures you might have needed if you didn’t know where to go to get them,” she said. “If you’d worked a lot in this field, you’d know which areas of the state were more conservative, where the pockets of more elderly, Catholic voters were. As we did our polling, our hardest demographic to move were Catholic males over 60. We knew right from the beginning from some of the polling we were doing that there were places in the state you could have gone and gotten the signatures you need. They weren’t doing that.”

A cadre of Isaacson’s forces began following the volunteers and making the signature gathering effort difficult. Ed Pawlick’s MassNews ran an angry story complaining that six “homosexual blockers interfered with a lone woman’s efforts to collect signatures for the Protection of Marriage Amendment at Assumption College.” The story quoted the gatherer complaining, “I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I lost the entire day. That was a big injustice for our cause. They are trying to suffocate this issue before the public can vote on it.”

Rudnick decided to bring in Ballot Access Company’s paid signature-collecting team — offering them more per-signature than the other committees were paying.

Bait-And-Switch

“When we first found out they’d hired a firm, we were very naïve,” Isaacson said. “We did not realize that some paid firms would commit fraud and forgery. But we quickly figured it out. Our truth squaders saw.”

With the higher per-signature incentive for the marriage petition, signatures on that became the paid collectors’ top priority. But gatherers quickly discovered that it was easier to convince people to sign a petition for the protection of horses than for the “protection” of marriage. The solution: Tell people they were signing the horse petition (“Petition A”), but actually have them sign the marriage initiative (“Petition E”).

In a 2002 affidavit, one of Ballot Access Company’s former employees alleged that his supervisor instructed him and his fellow gatherers to use a bait-and-switch approach:

He told us to talk about the horse slaughter issue to “sell” people on signing Petition A. He gave us pre-prepared clipboards that had a picture of a horse colored like the American flag on the top, a copy of Petition A underneath that, and then a mix of Petition A and Petition E signature pages on the bottom. He said we should show people Petition A, but if they weren’t paying attention to have them sign on one of the petitions underneath, most of which were Petition E. Ballot Access had prepared these clipboards so that there would be a mixture of the two, but most of them Petition E, with Petition A on top always.

As it became clear to the Campaign for Equality that this was going on, they alerted the state government. The state attorney general issued an advisory cautioning voters that after receiving “several complaints” from voters that they were being tricked into signing the marriage amendment petition, “some spot checks which revealed that some voters may have signed a petition they did not support.” The release encouraged voters to be careful and to report deception to their local registrar.

Isaacson was not thrilled with this response. “That didn’t even pass the laugh test. If [local grocery chain] Star were selling Swiss cheese as Muenster, they would go after it as consumer fraud. It was disgraceful,” she said. But while the state authorities did not take much notice, the local and national media did, covering the allegations of bait-and-switch and other fraudulent techniques repeatedly.

Standing With A Victoria’s Secret Bag

Amy Hunt

CREDIT: Amy Hunt/Andrew Breiner

“Knowing that our opponents hired paid signature gatherers who couldn’t give a shit about the initiatives they were collecting for, we trained people to do distraction techniques,” Isaacson said. “Talk to them about sports. We sent attractive lesbians to flirt with them, keep them talking. Every minute talking was a minute not gathering.”

She encouraged her lesbian volunteers to stand with a Victoria’s Secret bag and talk to the hired male collectors. “Trust me, he’ll be distracted,” she told them.

One of the truth squad volunteers who was especially good at this technique was a 39-year-old redhead named Amy Hunt. “I had a very successful ad agency,” she said. “We sold that agency, so while I figured out the rest of what I wanted to do with my life, I was not even 40 and was just hanging around.” When she heard the call for volunteers, she said “this could be a kick.”

Hunt quickly discovered that she was uniquely suited to getting signature gatherers removed from the shopping malls and grocery stores where they set up shop.

“I’d walk in with my beautiful camel hair coat with a flag pin, buy a few things, pay, walk out the exit, and the signature gatherers would approach me,” she recounted. “I’d get hoping mad because I’d been told they were messing around with people and fooling around with signatures. I’d huff back into the store and ask for the manager. I’d explain to him what I’d heard about these people and I would ask him ‘Are you sponsoring these people?’ The manager would say ‘Oh no, ma’am.’ I’d say, ‘It certainly looks like you approve of them.’ And I’d get them tossed.”

She’d then be deployed to the next spot where she would repeat the drill.

“Not everybody could do it,” Hunt said, “but I had a beautiful red bob that looked like Dana Scully, a camel hair coat, and a bag of groceries. And that’s overwhelming force when you’re speaking to the manager.” Over the course of the effort, she would end up buying all of the oatmeal and orange juice she could consume — and some lingerie.

Rudnick denounced the truth squad tactics as “a blatant attempt to subvert the political process.”

But while the truth squad had made his signature gathering effort more of a challenge, on December 20, 2001 he announced that, of the 110,000 signatures the Massachusetts Alliance for Marriage had submitted (“gathered by mostly volunteers”), 76,607 had been certified. With 19,507 signatures more than the requirement, the “Protection of Marriage Amendment” was heading to the state legislature for approval. The horse petition had fallen short.

Two Thousand Names

MassEquality.org website

CREDIT: Screenshot of the Campaign for Equality’s search website

Isaacson’s next move would prove controversial even within the coalition. “We did something that had never been done,” she said: They put the names of all of the initiative petition signers on the internet.

Hunt and the Campaign for Equality’s Sarah Bennett went to work. “[Sarah] knew how to do basic coding. I still have the scraps of paper that I drew the site architecture on. People were very squeamish, but we built a website, really rudimentary, really fast, with a file from the state, with all the names of the supposed signers,” Hunt said. The site would allow those whose names appeared on the wrong petitions to fill in a form and report the error to the campaign.

Next, Hunt said, they quietly coordinated with the disappointed horse protection advocates. “We slipped the website code to Save Our Horses and said, ‘Feel free to put up your own site.”

Soon the two groups had virtually identical websites, with different front pages, and were working together to drive people to check whether their signature had shown up on the wrong petition. Isaacson’s group circulated business cards that asked, “Was your signature stolen from you? Go to this website and find out.” With limited funds available, it also sent a pilot mailing to a few cities and towns, encouraging voters to report back if their signature had been stolen.

Bennett gave Hunt a printout of the inbound reports and Hunt would call people to vet them. This amateur investigation yielded more than 2,000 people who alleged their names had appeared on the wrong petition. “That was just us, in my living room and dining room table, so you know there were more,” Hunt said. “Two thousand complaints between us and Save our Horses and I spoke with a great many of them… We’d continue to go to the media, and [these reports] were very helpful with the legislature.”

An unsuccessful lawsuit to advance the horse bill included sworn claims by multiple voters who said they were duped.

Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage denied allegations of fraud and accused opponents of harassment. Ed Pawlick slammed the Globe for its coverage of the controversy and wrote on MassNews that it was “remarkable that none of the signers or the petition gatherers pushed or punched any of the harassers who were obviously using physical intrusion to cause trouble. If the harassers had been successful in starting violence, many say the Globe would have had large stories for months about the attacks against innocent homosexuals. That is what they were seeking.”

Pawlick would later write a book accusing the Globe’s parent company of libel. In February 2002, Rudnick resigned.

Josh Friedes, who was the volunteer political director for the Freedom to Marry Coalition, told ThinkProgress that the perception of fraud played a huge role in the legislative battle that was to follow. “I was more focused on ‘let’s get the stories of our families out [and] move the needle forward.’ But the media loved the bait-and-switch,” he said. “The story really stuck, it resonated with opinion leaders, it got into the subject matter of ethics and honesty in politics and government.”

And it would prove a powerful argument to use with state legislators, many of whom were not yet ready to be seen as supporters of same-sex marriage, but at the same time, weren’t comfortable supporting the amendment.

Tom Birmingham’s Gambit

Tom Birmingham

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ELISE AMENDOLA/Andrew Breiner

Though Senate President Tom Birmingham was busily preparing a run for governor in 2002, he was fully attuned to the complex amendment fight heading his way.

He met with progressive first-term Democratic Senator Harriette L. Chandler. “The only thing President Birmingham was interested in was where I stood on the DOMA issue,” she said. “I was absolutely against it. That was really all he was concerned about.” Birmingham appointed Chandler the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Public Service.

Next, he maneuvered to send the initiative petition — which the House had originally tried to assign to the more conservative Joint Committee on the Judiciary, to Chandler’s Joint Committee on Public Service.

On April 10, Chandler convened a hearing on the petition in Gardner Auditorium in the Massachusetts State House. A large number of the public showed up to argue for and against; her colleagues stayed away. The seven-hour-plus hearing continued, Chandler recalled, with “no break, [because there was] nobody to take over [as chair].” Hunt said she testified about her phone calls with bait-and-switch victims.

Chandler then wrote up what she hoped would become the “majority report,” opposing the amendment. Her draft argued that an amendment “that bars a segment of society from enjoying the rights and privileges accorded to others is discrimination.” But it also noted the horse meat controversy: “Furthermore, concerns about the manner in which signatures were gathered for this ballot initiative call into question the fairness and legitimacy of the process itself.” Fifteen of the 17 legislators on the committee signed onto her report — two Republicans agreed to abstain, meaning there would be no “minority report.”

Next, Birmingham moved to delay the fight to build up support. On May 1, Birmingham gaveled the constitutional convention into order and, less than 30 seconds later, recessed it until June 19. Despite 200 proponents in the gallery chanting “We want a vote! We want a vote!” he again immediately recessed the June 19 hearing for July 17. These delays gave Birmingham and the Campaign for Equality time to make their case.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Cheryl Jacques

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ANGELA ROWLINGS/Andrew Breiner

Cheryl Jacques stood on the blue carpeting of the ornate state House of Representatives chamber, on July 17, 2002, terrified. Just two years earlier, she had made history as the first openly gay state senator in Massachusetts history — and just weeks before, her partner had given birth to twins. Now, the future of her family and community — along with her professional reputation — were in the hands of the nearly 200 other state representatives and senators gathered for a constitutional convention joint session.

Birmingham, who presided over the joint session, was attempting to kill the amendment by adjourning. It would require just a simple majority, but Jacques had an embarrassing secret: Though she had confidently told legislative leaders earlier that day that the necessary number of senators were ready to support the maneuver, she had no idea whether that was actually the case.

“It was the most important legislative day of my life,” she recalled. “I was dying. Not only was history at stake, the thought of Massachusetts losing [the possibility of any recognition for same-sex couples]… but also my credibility with all my colleagues, including my senate president, was at stake. And I’d lied to them… or fudged.”

As the clerk began the constitutional convention roll-call vote on adjournment, Jacques noticed that some of the strongest supporters of equality and most solid votes for the adjournment happened to be the first names called. “The alphabet worked in our favor — first couple of votes were yeses,” she said. Seven of the first nine names alphabetically voted yes and Jacques — knowing that her colleagues sometimes voted like sheep — began to relax. “Had first three or four been the nos…” she trailed off.

In the end, the motion to adjourn prevailed, 137 to 53, effectively killing the “protection of marriage” amendment for the session.

In an email to ThinkProgress, Birmingham said that he “made the case on the merits. It helped that it was a super-DOMA, going beyond defining marriage as between a man and a woman.”

Isaacson also used the bait-and-switch argument as she met with lawmakers. “I’d show them the website [with the list of petition signers from] their towns,” she said, and they would respond with incredulity. “‘So-and-so signed this petition? No way, he’s gay. She’s the most progressive person in town. No way she’d sign the petition.’ It allowed legislators to say, ‘Look at this, there’s no way they’d sign. This is clearly filled with forged or fraudulently obtained signatures. I will not believe that all these people signed the petition.'”

She added that this created an “excuse for legislators to vote with us procedurally,” even if they “couldn’t vote with us on the merits.” Because there were so many fraudulent signatures, they could vote against it and tell constituents is was a tainted process. This “way of splitting the baby,” she speculated, “helped us to win over at least 20 to 30 legislators.”

Josh Friedes noted that one other factor aided the effort to kill the amendment. In early 2002, the Boston Globe began running its Pulitzer Prize-winning series about sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston Archdiocese. “The marriage equality movement blossomed right at the moment where the Catholic church was totally collapsing… their hierarchy. Every moment they could have killed it, they had some terrible scandal … The horror and rethinking [many of the Catholic legislators] were doing because of that betrayal was incredible.”

In a state legislature with a huge number of Catholic members, the influence of the Church leadership — much of which backed the amendment — weakened considerably just as the amendment fight was underway.

After Birmingham successfully adjourned the constitutional convention with no vote, Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage spokesman James Lafferty called it “another instance of Senator Birmingham blocking people out of the process.”

“We got 53 votes in that process,” he told Pawlick’s MassNews, “which tells me that we did have the 50 votes that were required to win had the Amendment been voted on. It was Senator Birmingham strong-arming people that made it go this way.”

After a last-gasp attempt by Pawlick to reopen the constitutional convention through the Supreme Judicial Court or through an order by Acting Gov. Jane Swift (R) failed, the proposed amendment was officially dead at the end of legislative year.

“You want to demoralize your enemy and we really did that to Ed Pawlick,” Amy Hunt explained. “He paid about $1 million for the entire effort and he literally got nothing for it. He didn’t even get a report, printed from the legislative committee, which everybody gets, even if they lose. He was erased. That, I love, and I think is important… because it wasn’t just defeating him but making it so that he would never come back.”

Pawlick died in 2007.

Why It Mattered

On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its historic 4 to 3 ruling in favor of the Goodridge plaintiffs. 180 days later, on May 17, 2004, same-sex marriages began.

By that time, Massachusetts had a new governor (Republican Mitt Romney) and a new senate president (Democrat Robert Travaglini), both of whom backed a constitutional amendment to stop same-sex marriage (possibly replacing it with some sort of alternative option) and both of whom wanted the legislature to have a real vote this time around.

Isaacson recalled that in 2004, as she and her allies walked into another constitutional convention, one of them remarked that, “If the 2002 the [vote] went the other way, I wonder if that might have changed what the court did in Goodridge. In a [4-3] split, it might have been just the thing tipped the scales the other way. We’ll never know, but it’s a profound possibility, maybe even a likelihood.”

And if the court had issued a ruling in favor of marriage equality anyway, the immediate backlash could have propelled the Rudnick amendment to a popular victory at the polls. An April 2004 Boston Globe poll found just 40 percent of Massachusetts residents backed same-sex marriage and voters in all 11 states considering marriage amendments that November passed them.

Cheryl Jacques, who served a stint as president of the Human Rights Campaign in 2004 and is now lecturing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, believes this is exactly what would have happened.

“If you look at what happened in Maine [in 2009] and California [in 2008], had the voters had the chance in November to vote on a ballot initiative to repeal the May Goodridge decision, just a few short months later, it would have been a disaster,” she said. “It would have been the same radioactive knee-jerk reaction that we saw in all these other areas, when there was no cooling off period, no time to digest the ridiculousness of the apocalyptic positions that the opponents of same-sex marriage made.”

Instead, same-sex marriage opponents had to start from scratch in the 2003-2004 legislative session. Without an initiative petition pending in 2004, legislators had to use an alternate process which required an outright majority of representatives and senators to get an amendment onto the ballot. “That saved our asses,” Isaacson said, noting that it failed to receive the required votes — as did a “>2005 initiative petition effort.

The Goodridge decision became part of the basis for other state and federal court rulings for civil marriage equality.

Isaacson and Hunt’s strategy would also prove helpful in other states. In Washington, anti-LGBT rights forces sued in 2009 to attempt to block pro-equality groups from obtaining and posting online the names of signers of an initiative petition to repeal a law expanding protections for domestic partners. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Roberts cited the work of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus in exposing “outright forgery and ‘bait-and-switch’ fraud” in his majority opinion upholding transparency.

Marc Solomon, whose Winning Marriage book chronicles the twelve year journey from having one state with same-sex marriage to having 50, began his long career in the marriage equality fight in Massachusetts. He told ThinkProgress that a different result in Massachusetts would have been “a very serious setback.”

“We didn’t have our second state until California in May of 2008. It would have been a whole period, another four years, without gay people marrying in this country. It would have set back the cause in a significant way. I don’t think it would have ended it, but it would have been a real setback,” Solomon said. “There needed to be a first, Massachusetts turned out to be great first. This would have pushed down the road the first state and would have been a serious setback for the movement — not one that would have been insurmountable, but a serious setback.
It would have pushed things forward by a period of time.”

GLAD’s Busek agreed. “If Massachusetts had said no” to marriage equality, I don’t know how much that would have set back the movement,” he said. “It certainly would have, I think, been somewhat of a setback.” While he does not believe a loss would have been a “death knell” for the movement, he noted that it “wouldn’t have been fun to lose in Massachusetts. It would have to have chastened people.”

The activists who won the 2001–2002 battle noted two important lessons for progressives for future fights.

Former Massachusetts ACLU legislative director Norma Shapiro said that, like the current fight in Massachusetts and elsewhere over transgender public accommodations protections, much of the challenge with same-sex marriage was to simply show people that their fears are unfounded. “After we have a transgender rights bill and it’s in place, really it’s not gonna be any different than we have now” for non-trans citizens, she said. “After we pass the law and people live with it for a year, they’re gonna wonder what the hell this was about. And I think it was the same with marriage. Before marriages took place, there were a lot of scary things said and a lot of people were afraid. Once they took place, it turned around quite rapidly. People also began getting invited to gay weddings, realized they had worked with someone who was gay and isn’t it nice he’s getting married. You jar people’s expectations and they shift.”

And Arline Isaacson firmly believes that in these and all fights, it is important to do whatever it takes to win, short of breaking the law. “Progressives have a tendency to want to argue on the merits of the issue, because we’re right about the merits. But sometimes to succeed politically, we have to be able to use the same tools and weapons to defeat our opponents,” she argued. “If you have to use parliamentary rules to keep a bad thing from happening, you should not feel apologetic for doing so. Thank heavens we ‘broke the rules’ in Massachusetts by truth squadding [and] posting names on the internet… And we took advantage of the rules by doing a procedural vote. And I am proud we did all those things. They all made a difference, they all helped us keep a very bad thing from happening that would have very possibly changed the course of history on same-sex marriage.”