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JOAN VENNOCHI

Outraged, but not over gay marriage

IT'S OUTRAGEOUS, isn't it? Last month, Massachusetts legislators failed to reach agreement on whether to let voters ultimately decide whether to change the state Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman. Today Beacon Hill revisits the controversy.

In the meantime, men and women in San Francisco and New York married their lovers. As of May 17, they can do the same thing in Massachusetts because the highest court in the Commonwealth ruled they can.

You can get outraged over that if you like, but to me, it is more outrageous to have House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran testify under oath that he did not review a legislative plan to redraw districts before it was made public and did not know in advance how the process would affect his own district. Such arrogance is far more outrageous and dangerous to the tenets of a civilized society than a desire by two people of the same sex to live together as legal spouses.

You are free to fret about the decline of civilization as we know it after men marry men and women marry women, although it is hard to understand how homosexual marriage undermines your marriage or mine.

I'll reserve my outrage for a Roman Catholic hierarchy that somehow convinces itself that it has the moral authority to slam the civil marriage door in the face of gay couples when it could not slam the church door in the face of pedophile priests.

Go ahead, get outraged over the fact that gay couples have sex they enjoy and raise children they love.

I'll get outraged over the fact that Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is intellectually dishonest enough to say he is against amending the US Constitution but supports amending the Massachusetts Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. That states' rights rationale was once used to support segregation in the South.

Furthermore, I'll get outraged thinking that state Senate President Robert Travaglini is promoting an amendment to ban same-sex marriage but promote civil unions, at least partly as a way to give Kerry cover in the presidential campaign.

And while I'm at it, I'll get outraged watching the Rev. Eugene Rivers III try to reestablish his credentials as a credible community spokesman by declaring that the right to marry is not a civil right. The last time Rivers commanded headlines he was apologizing to the Cape Verdean community for his blanket trashing of that ethnic group, using words no white person could employ without being called racist.

Finally, before all my outrage is used up, I'll direct some of it at the news that Boston's largest police union is asking Democrats to boycott the Democratic National Convention and threatening to set up a picket line outside the convention hall unless police get what want in contract negotiations. Also outrageous is the historic refusal of the Democratic Party to tell the police they can take their labor dispute and their alleged political muscle to Republicans who know what to do with them -- use them and then ignore them.

We all have our outrages, don't we? For Massachusetts legislators, this is a time to look into their own hearts and minds and decide what is truly outrageous. Is it same-sex marriage or radio talk show hosts who giggle about "fruits"? Is it the rule of law or the rule of the mob?

On Monday afternoon I walked up Beacon Street toward the State House. No one was protesting or promoting same-sex marriage, or anything else for that matter. Outside, the golden dome gleamed lustrously against the late winter sky. Inside, the hallways were mostly quiet. It was the calm between passionate advocacy, a moment to listen to conscience, not cacophony.

The governor held a routine press conference about $45 million in federal homeland security funding now available to help fight terrorism. Afterward he was asked how the Commonwealth would deal with gay couples from out of state who plan to come to Massachusetts to marry. His answer was a tranquil, Let's wait and see. He was more energized about a proposal to restore tollbooths on the Massachusetts Turnpike, calling it "nuts."

You know what? He is right. That is outrageous. It will hurt the hard-working people of Massachusetts much more than a marriage between two people of the same sex who happen to love each other.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is vennochi@globe.com.

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