The cost of civil disobedience, so-called

The cost of civil disobedience, so-called

Jay Fitzgerald: ‘Clear constitutional duty to vote’

A busy week prevented me from posting on the biggest political story of the week:  The Legislature’s ‘indifferene to, or definance of’ its constitutional duty to vote on the gay-marriage amendment. To which we should add its ‘indifference to, or defiance of’ its constitutional duty to vote on other constitutional amendments. Despite Susan Ryan-Vollmar’s silly admonishment that critics of the Legislature should ‘grow up,’ she does bring up the interesting issue of whether citizens should refuse to abide by a bad law on moral grounds. She specifically refers to Martin Luther King Jr.’s classic “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” But please note the word ‘jail.’ Martin Luther King Jr. was willing to pay the price for his civil disobedience. Can the same be said of lawmakers who have sworn to uphold the constitution and now hide behind parliamentary rules? Are there great moral issues at stake that justify the Legislature’s refusal to constitutionally act on other amendments that have nothing to do with the gay-marriage issue? Aren’t lawmakers turning the legal notion that ‘we’re a nation of laws and not men’ on its head as it applies to those amendments? Now that the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. has been grandly invoked, let’s see if lawmakers are prepared to pay the price for their convictions by stripping them of their law licenses and taking other actions against them for their refusal to perform their proper constitutional duties on a host of other amendments. I think we’d quickly find their reactions resemble less the moral certitude of MLK Jr. and more the politically expedient hackery of Billy Bulger, who first pioneered the parliamentary tricks we’re now debating. ...

We may add as well that, according to MLK’s calculus, the law itself must be immoral. How is the law requiring an up-or-down vote on a constitutional amendment itself immoral?

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli