By: Matthew C. Patrick
When I was elected as the State Representative of the Third Barnstable District, various pundits said to our incoming class that we would never work on legislation that would impact the lives of many people for the better. They were wrong and we did. Among many of the great things we were able to accomplish for people in the Commonwealth, there are two that have now spread across the country following our lead: Marriage Equality and The Massachusetts Health Care Act, which became the model for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
On marriage equality, there were several key votes while I was a state representative from 2003 through 2007. All of these votes took place in joint sessions of the House and Senate in the House Chamber. My good friend Senator Rob O’Leary sat with me in those joint sessions and we always had interesting discussions while listening to the speeches. It was heady stuff. During the first session, I told Rob I was wavering in favor of civil unions but he convinced me to support full marriage equality. All the votes were to put the matter before the voters in referendum questions.
Later, I spoke in favor of marriage equality noting that to enable changes to decisions of the Supreme Judicial Court regarding civil rights of fellow citizens by referendum vote is a betrayal of my oath of office to uphold our constitution and an abuse of the referendum process.
I’m proud to say I always voted in favor of marriage equality in spite of intensely ugly lobbying efforts not to do so from within and without my district. At one point, I walked out in the middle of Mass after my parish priest’s sermon in favor of allowing people to vote on the issue; it was a move dramatic enough to be noted by many people in my parish. Even today, I still hear gossip critical of me for subsequently going to communion after taking those votes. In the final analysis, I’m proud of my record on the issue and if I end up in hell, it won’t be because of my votes in favor of marriage equality.
More than anything else, I’m happy for all of our LGBT brothers and sisters making marriage legal for everyone in every state of our Nation.
The Massachusetts Health Care Act had to pass. We were spending an unbelievable amount of our state budget to pay hospitals for emergency room visits for the uninsured who were not getting preventative health care. In spite of having the most expensive health care system per capita in the history of the world, Massachusetts (and the US) still ranked among third world nations in terms of outcomes and overall health. It was a waste of money and our Republican Governor, Mitt Romney, joined the Democrats in writing the bill. I still believe we should go to a single payer system such as Medicare for all, but our bill and the Affordable Care Act are steps in the right direction. Millions of people in Massachusetts and the United States now have health insurance that they couldn’t afford before and it all started in our Commonwealth.
These are issues of compassion and equality. Massachusetts has always been a leader and a voice for people who need to be heard. I am proud to have had the opportunity to listen and act toward the advancement of the inclusive environment we started here and helped to spread across the nation. My thanks goes to the people of the Third Barnstable District for giving me that opportunity.