Another shot heard ‘round the world

As was the case a couple of hundred years ago when the question centered on a struggle for sovereignty from royal rule, in the battle for same-sex marriage rights, it was in our small Commonwealth that was sounded the shot heard  ’round the world.

The 2003 Supreme Judicial Court decision legalizing gay marriage convulsed the national body politic, with opponents decrying the vast activist overreach of the state’s loopy, lefty judges.  Only a decade later, public opinion has swung from decided opposition to same-sex marriage to majority support. The political and legal winds are now following, with 11 states and the District of Columbia also now granting same-sex couples full marriage rights. But the biggest leap forward for advocates of marriage equality came yesterday, with the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which had prohibited the extension of federal benefits to couples legally married in states.

The long march to undo the law was bookended by the calls for justice by Kennedys. In 1996, as the Globe’s Michael Levenson reports, even as Democrats, led by then-President Bill Clinton, lined up in support of the law, Ted Kennedy thundered his opposition. “It is a mean-spirited form of legislative gay-bashing,” Kennedy said at the time, and “flatly unconstitutional.”

In yesterday’s ruling, it was Justice Anthony Kennedy, viewed from the start as the swing vote who would decide the case, who authored the majority opinion in the divided 5-4 vote. “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Kennedy wrote. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.” Kennedy said the law was intended to harm gay couples and their families by demeaning their “moral and sexual choices” and humiliating “tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.”

Firing the original shot in 2003 was Margaret Marshall, then the Massachusetts SJC chief justice and author of the landmark Goodridge decision. Yesterday, Marshall told the Herald’s Margery Eagan that the DOMA ruling was “huge and enormous,” and called it “a recognition of the most powerful parts of our constitution.”

In fact, there is plenty that is still muddled about the legal state of same-sex marriage.  As the Times’s Adam Liptak writes, “The constitutional basis for striking down the law was not entirely clear, as it had elements of federalism, equal protection, and due process.” The New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen calls the ruling a “logical mish-mash, portending more litigation and more instability.”

The ruling says the federal government can’t deprive couples legally married in their state of residence of the federal benefits conferred on married couples. But it does not establish a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Indeed, at least part of the rationale for striking down DOMA is a defense of states’ rights to decide such matters.

There may be “more instability” ahead on the question, but there is also a sense of inevitability to the issue, a feeling that, over time, stability will come with increasing acceptance of marriage equality in the public square, with courts and legislatures moving to keep pace.

                                                                                                                                                                –MICHAEL JONAS

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick says he can’t support the Legislature’s compromise transportation funding bill because one of the funding sources, presumably the restoration of tolls on the far-western part of the Massachusetts Turnpike, is not solid, the Associated Press reports (via WBUR).

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A New Bedford city councilor is proposing “curfew zones” for neighborhoods where crime is highest.

Springfield City Councilor John Lysak calls Mayor Domenic Sarno “a thug mayor” during a budget debate, MassLive reports.

The owner of an Asian grocery store has again filed suit against Quincy officials saying the city council’s two rejections of his application to open a supermarket in North Quincy was based on politics rather than the facts.

Some Brockton residents and mayoral candidates are up in arms that Mayor Linda Balzotti and the City Council granted raises to 27 city employees, including 11 department heads, while a controversial tax hike is also going into effect. Meanwhile, Fall River city councilors declined to take action on proposed raises for 13 top administrators, including a hefty pay hike for Mayor Will Flanagan’s chief of staff, who was mysteriously suspended last week for five days for unspecified reasons.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino defends the intercession of his top aide, Michael Kineavy, in a South Boston development project, telling the Herald, “That’s our job. What’s wrong with helping somebody? Tell me that. Jesus. That’s why I want to get out of this business.”

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Former Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, whose opinion nearly 10 years ago made Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage, talks about the ramifications and still-unsettled matters of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision that ruled the federal DOMA unconstitutional. The American Spectator says make no mistake: Yesterday’s ruling means same-sex marriage nationwide; the Atlantic sees things heading in that direction, too, although the court didn’t actually change the same-sex marriage map yesterday. The Wall Street Journal previews looming same-sex marriage battles in the states. The National Review says Chief Justice John Roberts, who stunned conservatives with last year’s ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, continues to flummox the right by his “clumsy” opinion in the other same-sex marriage decision yesterday that essentially makes gay marriage legal in California. Joe Fitzgerald seems unaware of both constitutional checks and balances, and the separation of civil law from religion.

As the immigration debate rages in Washington, NPR (via WBUR) reports on how companies wanting to hire foreign workers under the H-1B visa program recruit American workers without ever meaning to hire them.

Virginia has cut the number of homeless people by 17 percent over the last three years, Governing reports.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling the legislature back into session after a filibuster ran out the clock on an abortion bill during the last session.

New York’s Jonathan Chait, who has chronicled the national GOP’s stiff long-term demographic challenges, gawks at Republicans who know they need immigration reform but don’t want to anger their strident base by voting for it. Karl Rove pleads for Hispanic-friendly policies from Congress.

ELECTIONS

And they’re off. Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian gears up to run for the soon-to-be-empty seat of US Rep. Ed Markey, along with state Sens. Katherine Clarke, Karen Spilka, and William Brownsberger and Rep. Carl Sciortino, the Lowell Sun reports. WBUR has this report. Sciortino formally announces his run on the State House steps.

Richard Tisei is optimistic about the state GOP’s chances in 2014: “We’ll have a strong candidate in Charlie Baker or Scott Brown, and it looks as though Democrats have a weak field.”

Anthony Weiner has no political organization, but he’s riding a tide of free media to the top of the race for New York mayor.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A third revision by the Department of Commerce has lowered the annual growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product based on new analysis of consumer spending in the first quarter.

Large firms like Wal-Mart and Gap create a $50 million fund to shore up safety at Bangladeshi garment factories.

The Wall Street Journal blames the troubles at Barnes & Noble on an abundance of caution that’s driving customers to Amazon. The company is floundering, even as overall book sales are rising.

EDUCATION

UMass Dartmouth officials are planning on cutting more than $800,000 from the budgets of the college’s 13 centers, mostly from the $30,000 to $50,000 stipends paid to the professors acting as the centers’ directors over and above their regular salaries.

New Bedford city councilors have pledged to restore the $4 million cut from the school department’s budget just last week after the School Committee promised to meet with councilors regularly through the year to discuss spending.

Salem State University continues its expansion, paying $600,000 for the Salem Diner. It’s unclear what the university is going to do with the diner, which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places, but one way or another it will be preserved, the Salem News reports.

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy says the glut of advertising for testosterone products is ageist, falsely promising the “fountain of youth” by focusing on physical changes that occur naturally in men as they get older.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A small group of environmentalists urge a ban on fracking in Massachusetts, the Associated Press reports (via Berkshire Eagle).

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Prosecutors say they have a trove of incriminating video as they lay out murder charges against the suddenly-former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. It may become the first high-profile case of the surveillance camera era. Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson says day-to-day life behind bars in the county’s House of Correction for Hernandez while he awaits trial will be a far cry from the luxury he is used to.

The top military court overturned the murder conviction of a Plymouth Marine because he was kept in solitary confinement for a week without a lawyer while being interrogated about the killing of an Iraqi civilian.

More testimony at the House of Pain on Whitey Bulger’s informant ways.

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy confers his 16th annual Muzzle Awards for stifling free speech.  Among those so  “honored” is Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, who several mayoral hopefuls jockey to pay homage to in today’s Globe. Davis earns his muzzling stripes, Kennedy says, for the department’s surveillance of Occupy protesters, including the late BU professor Howard Zinn.

The New York Times and Washington Post try to frame the debate for web commenters, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

The Crimson suggests the Globie in charge of this ranking metric wouldn’t know a hipster if he was run over by one on his fixie.