Engaged: Barney Frank, 71, and longtime partner Jim Ready, 42, the congressman’s office confirmed for us Thursday, following a report by New England Cable News. Where? In Massachusetts, where gay nuptials were made legal in 2004. When? Sorry, that’s all the details they’d give. Frank is set to leave Congress next winter after 32 years, and he’s said the rigors of the job and the desire to devote more time to his relationship were factors. “I have a partner now,” Frank told Charlie Rose in an interview a couple weeks ago. “I’m in love for the first time in my life.”
There’s so much in that paragraph that I don’t like (nor do I want to contemplate the report that Frank’s partner is practically a Todd Palin lookalike), but if this Ready guy is one of the reasons he’s retiring, well then … I offer a weird and conflicted “yay!” to this news. (We all know redistricting is the real reason for Frank’s retirement — and, honestly, the definition of marriage is too important a cultural issue to make light of, but sometimes I laugh so as not to cry.)
Anyway. Let’s move quickly to a more relevant related question: What was Mitt Romney’s role in the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2004? You might already know the answer, but I was fuzzy on the details, so I just spent a bit of time researching and am satisfied Romney’s not to blame for Barney Frank’s impending wedding.
As with so much of his political record, Romney’s part in the Massachusetts marriage drama was constrained by certain inalterable parameters. In other words, the excuse for his participation in gay marriage legalization is the same as his excuse for many of the sketchier parts of his past: He was the governor of the blue-as-blue-can-be Bay State, remember?
As a quick refresher: In 2004, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ultimately determined that a ban on same-sex marriage was contrary to the constitution of the state — and gave the legislature 180 days to change the state’s marriage laws accordingly. The legislature hadn’t taken action by May 17, the fixed deadline, but, that day, then-Gov. Mitt Romney nevertheless ordered town clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples so as to comply with the SJC’s decision. Later, though, he fought to ensure that the Massachusetts legislature at least granted a vote to a voters’ initiative to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. It was Gov. Deval Patrick who signed the repeal of a 1913 law that made it illegal for Massachusetts to grant a marriage license to non-resident couples if the marriage would be invalid in their home state. Deval’s signature opened the floodgates for non-resident same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses from Massachusetts. So, Mitt had nothing to do with that.
On this, Mitt Romney’s record is conflicted only because he demonstrated commitment to abiding by the state constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Judicial Court.