Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Better Man for Massachusetts: After Four Years of Mitt Romney and His Antigay Political Maneuvers-And with Conservatives Now Planning a New Push to Undo Marriage Equality-Gays and Lesbians in the Bay State Welcome Progressive New Governor Deval Patrick with Open Arms

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Better Man for Massachusetts: After Four Years of Mitt Romney and His Antigay Political Maneuvers-And with Conservatives Now Planning a New Push to Undo Marriage Equality-Gays and Lesbians in the Bay State Welcome Progressive New Governor Deval Patrick with Open Arms

Article excerpt

On April 1, day 87 of his first term as governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick ordered the marriages of 26 out-of-state gay couples who had wedded just after same-sex marriage became legal in his state on May 17, 2004--and just before nonresident licenses were effectively blocked--to be registered in the state's vital records. It was an action his Republican predecessor, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had steadfastly refused to allow, citing a dusty 1913 state law that prohibited recognition of marriages that would not be legal in couples' home states.

Patrick's decision was a sweet, if largely ceremonial, victory for gays and lesbians in the Bay State after a period of backlash against same-sex marriage by Romney and others. And the payoff may soon be sweeter, as Patrick would like to repeal the 1913 law. "If the bill comes to my desk," he says one spring morning in his office in the State House in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood, referring to a measure currently making the rounds in the state legislature, "I will sign it."

That kind of fresh talk on gay issues has Patrick's queer constituents swooning for their new governor, the first Democrat in 16 years (and the first African-American ever) to hold the office. A Harvard-trained lawyer like his friend and fellow Chicago native Barack Obama, Patrick, 50, the underdog in the Democratic gubernatorial primary last year, bested his two challengers, then trounced outgoing Republican lieutenant governor Kerry Healey in the general election in November. His progressive platform included full support for marriage equality, which made him the rarest of politicians; gay and lesbian voters responded in kind, donating an estimated $300,000 to his campaign.

And now they're reaping the rewards. "It is so dramatically different to have a supportive governor in the corner office," says Lee Swislow, executive director of Boston-based legal group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. "He pledged his support of us, and we're now seeing the effect of it."

But while his effort to record those 26 same-sex marriages is certainly praiseworthy, Patrick's first 100 days have not been smooth. After a slew of early "missteps," as he puts it--spending over $12,000 on damask drapes for his office as part of a $27,387 makeover and leasing a $46,000 Cadillac, which prompted a much-ballyhooed "don't give up on me" mea culpa--his job approval rating is down to 48% from his winning electoral vote of 56%.

But, he asserts, "there's been a lot more going on than decorating my office and picking out drapes." He boasts that since taking office January 4, he has streamlined the permit process for new construction and business expansion, signed a regional greenhouse initiative, and gotten on track to add 100,000 new jobs by the end of his first term. And that's what the people of Massachusetts care about, he says: "They want to know that they've got a governor interested in having and doing the job."

It's a clear dig at Romney, who always seemed preoccupied with running for president while he was governor and who now distances himself from "liberal" Massachusetts--and decries same-sex marriage--every chance he gets on the campaign trail. "He's a very nice man, but I think most Massachusetts voters, including many of the people that supported him, realized that he wasn't really interested in doing the job," says Patrick. "I think we all can appreciate that you can't govern by photo op. …

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