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Even as gay and lesbian civil rights have dramaticaly progressed in the past few decades, there is no question that the religious right has mounted an organized and often, hate-infused backlash movement. The particular wedge issue for the religious right these days, is marriage equality.

Marriage equality promises to be one of the central issues of our time. I live in Massachusetts, where an antimarriage equality amendment will probably be on the ballot in 2008.  

It will change political life in my state forever.

As has been widely reported, antimarriage equality amendments to state constitutions have been passed in a number of states, primarily via ballot initiatives, and these initiatives have been used to rally voters to the polls, primarily for the benefit of conservative Republicans.

Massachusetts is the only state where there is full marriage equality, thanks to a ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court.

The religious right, led by the Massachusetts Family Institute,(MFI) along with the Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts, have succceeded in getting the signatures they need to get on the ballot for 2008. The initiative still needs to get 50 votes in two successive sessions of the state legislature to make the ballot. Since this seems likely, it is reasonable to assume that this initiative will be on the ballot.

In my recent speech at Blog Left Massachussetts, I stressed that it is is necessary for Massachusetts citizens to get ready. I promised that Talk to Action would help track the activities of the religious right as it bears down on our state. Fortunately blogger Marry in Massachusetts was on hand to write down my remarks:

He concluded his presentation with a major theme on same-sex marriage. He said that the current struggle with change the face of politics in Massachusetts forever.

"Massachusetts is ground zero," he said. He predicted that a tremendous amount of resources, financial and human, will pour into the commonwealth for this effort.

Bloggers will have a special responsibility, he added. This includes:

Being aware of who's coming.

Learn why they're coming.

Keep track of what they do here.

Help the media and political leaders understand what they are doing.

There are only two years to do this. Bloggers can make a huge difference.

As part of this effort, I want to call attention to something I wrote a few weeks ago, detailing the way that the MFI is part of a national network of state level political groups which serve as fronts for James Dobson's Focus on the Family.

Several years ago, I wrote a study about state level conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, published by Political Research Associates (pdf file). There were two, related networks started in tandem in the late 1980s. One emphasized the business/libertarian part of public policy, and the other emphasized the policy issues dear to the religious right. The latter, was the network of Family Policy Councils affiliated with James Dobson's Focus on the Family. The details have changed since I published that study, but the general trajectory remains the same. Most importantly, these groups are at the forefront of antimarriage equality campaigns nationwide, and their role as fronts for Focus on the Family are not widely understood and that Dobson's organization has active, organizational tentacle in 34 states, in addition to his radio program which is available just about everywhere.

For example, the point group in the recently defeated effort to repeal anti-discrimination laws in Maine, was the FOF affiliate, the Christian Civic League of Maine.

There will, no doubt, be many religious right organizations that will be targeting resources on Massachusetts. But when we look at the role of the Massachusetts Family Institute, it is important to noltice the long shadow of James Dobson and Focus on the Family.

Whether or not marriage equality affects you personally, or whether or not you are from Massachusetts, this battle will have many national implications. The national Democratic party, the wealthy donors, and the interest groups that could make a difference, usually don't pay much attention to Massachusetts. They tend to take it for granted, and focus thier attention and resources elsewhere.

Old habits and ways of thinking die hard. But I can tell you that Massachusetts will need help to contend with the outside forces that are already bearing down on us.

Wherever you happen to be, please be thinking about what you might be able to do to help. And don't worry, I will come around with suggestions from time to time.

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Wed Dec 14, 2005 at 11:12 PM PST.

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