Massachusetts and the rule of law

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Jul 14, 2006

"The US Constitution guarantees each state 'a republican form of government,'" notes Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, in his "Washington Update." "The question is, is Massachusetts still a republic?"

A republic is a polity in which the powers of the regime are defined and limited: a society under the rule of law. Whether that description applies to Massachusetts is indeed open to question.

On July 12, the Massachusetts legislature met in a constitutional convention, to take up (among other things) a citizens' petition to restore the traditional legal definition of marriage. The state's written constitution requires the lawmakers to vote on that measure. They chose instead to postpone a vote until-- conveniently-- after this year's elections.

Will they hold the vote, then, in November? Maybe. And maybe not. Back in 2002, faced with a similar petition, the legislature adjourned without taking a vote. The constitution said they were required to vote. They didn't.

In a society that is not under the rule of law, the people in power can do anything that you can't stop them from doing. Sound familiar?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Sterling - Jul. 17, 2006 10:37 PM ET USA

    Moneo, the court has ruled that the legislature acted illegally when it gavelled the the constitutional convention to a close in 2002. But there seems to be no punishment - such as jail time, fines, or monetary awards - attached to that judgment. Also, we vote on so-called "binding resolutions" in this state, and the legislators totally ignore the results with impunity. This is a weird, weird state, but one that King George would love.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 16, 2006 6:04 PM ET USA

    The idea that JFK or RFK would be concerned about any moral issues is laughable. Otherwise, I agree with all the remarks deploring the situation in Massachusetts.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 15, 2006 4:43 PM ET USA

    I'll bet if JFK and RFK were still alive they would cane these scofflaws. And I'm sure that something must have distracted Teddy's attention or he would. Or John Kerry. Yup, these people had better watch out.

  • Posted by: Moneo - Jul. 15, 2006 3:37 AM ET USA

    Perhaps I don't understand how these things work, but... Then why does the citizen (or citizens) who filed the petition not challenge the legislature's actions by filing a suit in the state's supreme court challenging the constitutionality of the legislature's actions? It would be in the interests of many family and pro-life organisations in the state to file briefs in support of the suit as well, I should think.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 14, 2006 9:27 PM ET USA

    "In a society that is not under the rule of law, the people in power can do anything that you can't stop them from doing." read - Novus Ordo?

  • Posted by: - Jul. 14, 2006 9:23 PM ET USA

    Yes, it sounds like the Republican administration in the White House!

  • Posted by: - Jul. 14, 2006 1:12 PM ET USA

    Sadly, way too familiar. Most U.S. citizens don't care.