Earlier this month, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts became the only current GOP governor to affix his name to an amicus brief signed by more than 300 Republicans urging the U.S. Supreme Court to make same-sex marriage legal across the country. Oral arguments in the case, Obergefell v. Hodges, will be heard on April 28, after which the court will decide if the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who want them.
The addition of Baker's John Hancock to the amicus brief has rankled the hilariously impotent Massachusetts Republican Party. How impotent? The party holds just 22% of the seats in the state's House of Representatives, which it hasn't controlled since 1954. Over in the Senate, it controls a paltry 15% of the seats and hasn't controlled that chamber since 1958.
The state GOP officially opposes same-sex marriage, and the "Values" portion of its platform declares, "We believe the institution of traditional marriage strengthens our society." Incredibly, Massachusetts Republicans cling to this refrain 11 years after the first same-sex couple was married -- an event that has, despite the prognostications of doom, failed to herald the tearing asunder of the Bay State's social fabric.
No matter, Massachusetts' faction of anti-gay Lilliputians are futilely shaking their tiny fists at the 6'6" Gullivernor Baker. Chanel Prunier, the National Committeewoman for the Massachusetts GOP blasted Baker (whose brother is gay and married). In an email to The Boston Globe, she said that it's “unwise and damaging to party unity for party leaders in [Massachusetts] to sign on to the brief for same-sex marriage."
Meanwhile, a Republican councilman from Watertown named Steve Aylward, couldn't help but grossly overstate the relevance of Massachusetts Republicans on the national scene. After calling Baker's support for same-sex marriage "traitorous," Aylward hypothesized, “If I’m a guy who’s running [in opposition to gay marriage] in Arkansas, my opponent can point to fractures within the party and say, ‘Jeez, even the Republican governor of Massachusetts has come out against this.’”
Yes, because Arkansas conservatives look to the governor of Massachusetts -- a state that's the boogeyman in spooky bedtime stories that conservatives tell their kids -- as a weather vane for deciding which way the conservative winds are blowing across America.
It might surprise outsiders to learn that five out of the last six governors of the famously liberal Massachusetts have been Republicans. Of course, to get elected as governor of Massachusetts, one definitely cannot act like a Republican, especially on social issues. Hence, prospective voters were treated to this now-missing individual pledging to protect the right to abortions back in 2002:
Mitt Romney: So when asked, will I preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, I make an unequivocal answer: Yes.
And when Romney did become governor and when he did try to govern as a Republican, he more often than not wasn't allowed to by the veto-proof supermajority of Democrats in the state house. Mass Live gathered data on Romney's vetoes, and here's what they came up with:
"Factcheck.org reported, based on an independently-obtained list of veto override votes, that out of more than 800 budget line-item vetoes during Romney’s four years as governor, 707 were overridden. A separate Factcheck.org post put the exact number of Romney’s vetoes at 844 – and noted that “more than 700” were overridden.
"The Boston Globe reported that in 100 instances Democrats did not challenge Romney and his vetoes stood. In cases when the Senate challenged him, Romney was overridden every time. When the House challenged him, Romney was overridden more than 99 percent of time, the Globe reported, based on statistics from the House minority leader’s office."
Republicans have made some modest seat gains on Beacon Hill over the last few elections. But if party leaders and activists think they'll be able to extend them by taking a hard line against same-sex marriage amid a dramatically shifting social landscape, the Sacred Cod in the House will be pointing to the Democrats for at least another 61 years.