1 Polito and Stan

^ Karyn Polito will join the two above men, St Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Bryon Hefner, in matrimony

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It was big news, this week, to read that Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito will do the honors at State Senate President Stan Rosenberg’s wedding to Bryon Hefner. It’s not every day that any Republican office holder officiates a same sex wedding. It caught out many activists who still had not forgiven Polito for her well-publicized opposition to marriage equality back in the day, and it painfully surprised the anti-equality activists who once counted Polito an ally.

I cannot recall a single decision, by an elected official, that has changed our state’s politics so utterly.

Shock aside, and wary distrust off the table as well, Polito’s move has huge implications politically. it’s had some already.

First, the story broke during the height of the battle in Indiana over that state’s enacting a “religious freedom” law whose palpable purpose was to permit businesses to deny service to gay and transgender people. I doubt the story’s timing was coincidental.

Second, and of enormous import, whether or not Polito intended such, it casts her political lot with the young, city-living and city-oriented part of Governor Baker’s coalition even as it separates her, significantly, from Baker’s aging, central Massachusetts following.

It ‘s also a decision to stand with business, on a matter in which business has almost always voiced the good. Businesses want all to be their customers. The mainstreaming of people previously marginalized has been very, very good for commerce, just as was true in the Civil Rights 1960s and long before. We can’t ever forget that the merchant aristocracy of Boston (not all, but most of it) provided much of the Abolitionist leadership in the 1840s and 1850s and also helped fund the costs of housing and employing escaped slaves. Today we often tend to think of business as retrograde — thanks largely to the reactionary Koch Brothers — but that impression is a false one. In Massachusetts today, almost all business is on the side of Karyn Polito’s act of grace and inclusion.

Recently I wrote about March 31’s two special state representative elections, which demonstrated for all to see the vast difference, in age, outlook, and setting, between the two winners : in Shrewsbury and Westboro, Hannah Kane’s oldish, bare majority vote; in East Boston, Adrian Madaro’s sweeping majority spearheaded by young and very young voters. Kane and Madaro both have strong ties to baker and his administration, and Baker’s win last November depended on his having both constituencies. But the two parts of Baker’s coalition are not equal. Madaro’s young city following commands Baker’s future; Kane’s oldish Worcester County voters represent Baker’s past.

I have no idea if Polito made this calculation, or whether she calculated anything, in moving to officiate Senator Rosenberg’s wedding. Polito has a big heart and relates instinctively to people, all people, as people : that simple. Her decision may well have been no more than that, a personal act for two men she considers friends.

Still, her decision has the consequences I have outlined. I suspect that she already knows this and is going all in with it. If she and Baker continue on their current path of inclusion and equality — and I think they will — they can transform almost everything about the GOP in Massachusetts — a transformation much needed, and not only by Polito and Baker.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATED 04/05/15

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