Six Wrong Things About the Massachusetts GOP Flap Over Jim Lyons and Same-Sex-Couple Adoption

Printed from:

Massachusetts Republicans lost control of the state House of Representatives in 1948 because they managed to get themselves seen as taking an anti-Catholic position on birth control.

Now, many Republicans in the state are demanding that a Catholic chairman of the party disavow Catholic teaching about marriage and children or resign.

You’ve come a long way, GOP.

A recap:  In May, a woman who represents a central Massachusetts state Senate district on the 80-member Republican State Committee sent an email message to purported fellow conservatives expressing opposition to a declared Republican candidate for Congress because he has adopted two children with his same-sex partner.

Here’s the money quote (according to the candidate’s Facebook page):  “I heard he was a ‘married’ homosexual man, who adopted children. I was sickened to hear this …”

The candidate (Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette) then sent an email message to the committee member (Debbie Martell). Haven’t seen that one yet.  (If you have it, email it to me at [email protected], and we’ll publish it.)

The committee member responded:


I am a Catholic who loves God and His Ten Commandments. I wish the best for every person in the world, including you! What sickened me was that you adopted children. All children deserve a mom and a dad [and] that’s probably why you had great difficulty adopting them.

If you are going to quote me, please quote me correctly. I wrote, ” I heard he was a “married” homosexual man, who adopted children.” That’s what sickened me. Children deserve a mom and a dad. That’s how God designed marriage and the family.

I wish all the best for you!


Someone then predictably forwarded the email messages to The Boston Globe, which has since run a string of articles about them, including a news story that calls the email messages “hateful.” (No need to let the reader form his own conclusions.)

The target isn’t really Martell. The target is Jim Lyons, the conservative chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party. Lyons leads a party that is split between conservative true-believers and people who aren’t. Lyons is a true-believer. This is a wedge to try to drive him out.

Martell has refused to resign, and Lyons has refused to call for her to resign. (Lyons can’t kick her out, as she is an elected member in the middle of her term.)

Lyons’s refusal led to a letter this week, according to the Globe, signed by 29 of the 30 Republican state representatives in Massachusetts calling on Lyons to demand Martell’s resignation or resign himself.

Now, before we get to the head scratching, let’s consider Lyons’s position here. This is not ground of his choosing – he didn’t bring this topic up, and likely doesn’t think it’s a useful conversation to have in the current environment. He probably doesn’t agree with the way Martell expressed herself. (All guesses on my part, not from the horse’s mouth.)

But what’s he supposed to do?

If Lyons calls for Martell to resign, then he is endorsing the view that what she said about same-sex couples adopting children is not only wrong but so wrong that you can’t say it out loud (or write it in an email message) without being forced to withdraw from public life.

In other words, he would be telling believing Catholics (like himself) that you can’t express a Catholic point of view on delicate moral subjects in public and still serve in the political party he runs.

If Lyons doesn’t call for Martell to resign … then the vast majority of state legislators in his own party are prepared to demand that he withdraw from public life … not for what he has said, but for what he hasn’t said.

There are so many errors in thinking here that it’s hard to keep them straight without a scorecard. So here’s a scorecard:


1.  It Isn’t Bigoted To Oppose Same-Sex Unions Or Adoption of Children By Same-Sex Couples

This is a moral point of view. Many people in our society disagree with it. But it’s based on the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, on thousands of years of experience, and on reason.

It’s also black-letter Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

Briefly:  Sex either brings us closer to God and helps make us happy, or it drives us away from God and makes us unhappy. If sexual activity isn’t in the context God intended – a man and a woman committed to a lifelong mutually faithful relationship based in love that is open to new life – then it will drive its participants further away from God and make them unhappy. Children need and deserve a mother and a father to develop properly, and no one should choose to create situations (unwed motherhood, divorce, separation, same-sex adoptive parents) where children don’t have a mother and a father. Kids also shouldn’t get the message that a same-sex sexual relationship is a reasonable road to happiness.

I get it – if you’re reading this, there’s a high-percentage chance you disagree with part or all of the above paragraph. But that’s just it:  This is a point of view you disagree with … not a hateful statement based on prejudice or bigotry.


2.  ‘Sickened’ Is Poor Word Choice

“Sickened” when it comes to same-sex relationships is not a helpful word to use because it sends a message of judgment about a person’s situation in life that is bound to drive that person away. If you are sickened, then maybe the other person is sick. No one wants to hear that.

If the goal is to persuade people, then you can’t turn off their hearing aid.


3.  This Conflict Isn’t About Word Choice

If the committee member had used the word “saddened” instead of “sickened” to describe her reaction to a man in a same-sex relationship adopting children, we’d be having the same discussion.

It isn’t Martell’s word choice that her critics want to get rid of. It’s her moral point of view.

And let’s be crystal clear here:  It’s the Roman Catholic moral point of view.

And let’s further the discussion:  Most of Martell’s point of view on this topic is also the point of view of evangelical Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity, and Orthodox Judaism.

That’s the sort of view – the one that was near-universal a generation or two ago — they don’t want you to say out loud any more.


4.  Stop Trying To Be ‘Relevant,’ GOP

There’s no point in being relevant if you’re not also right. Trying to be a slightly-less-crazy version of the Democratic Party is not worth doing. And it won’t get you anywhere worth going.

Identify principles, and stick to them. Make sure the principles are good and important.

One of those principles shouldn’t be:  Let’s make all the Christians shut up.

Also refrain from:  We’re trying so hard to get the mainstream media to like us.

And at all costs avoid this one:  The Boston Globe is our referee.


5.  The Republican Party Can’t Win Without Its Base

The subhed above is too long. At the moment, the Republican Party in Massachusetts can’t win.

(“Win” in this sense doesn’t mean “being able to invite the governor to your fund raiser,” but rather “actually changing the way government does things along Republican lines.”)

Longer term, though, if there is ever to be a Republican revival in this state it will require the support and participation of conservatives, who are the party’s base. Among those are believing Catholics who follow the Church’s teachings on moral matters. You can’t win just with them, because there aren’t enough of them. But you certainly can’t win without them.

In 1948, Tip O’Neill – yes, that one – took a pro-artificial-contraception statewide referendum and made the Republicans wear it. The Democrats rode that issue all the way to control of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for the first time ever, and Tip became speaker. (This was before he went to Congress.) With one two-year blip in the 1950s, Democrats have held the House ever since. (The story is best told in John Aloysius Farrell’s 2001 biography Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century. But you can get some of it here.)

The social and political situation in Massachusetts obviously has changed. But here’s where it’s the same:  There is no percentage for Republicans in Massachusetts to diss the Roman Catholic Church.  Disagree all you want – but don’t tell believing Catholics they can’t say what they believe in public and still hold public office.

Leave that to the Democrats.


6.  Cancel Culture Is Destroying Our Ability To Argue

Immediate calls for resignation and self-abasement over what ought to be mere disagreements is poisoning our public life.

If we’re not dealing with a serious crime or an obvious injustice or an imminent actual threat to public safety, why don’t we talk these things through?

Or, if it’s about elected officials, why not try to defeat them at the next election?

If you disagree with something, the proper way to respond is to make an argument against it … not to try to take the other kid’s ball away from him and make him go home.


Matt McDonald is the editor of New Boston Post.


New to NewBostonPost?  Conservative media is hard to find in Massachusetts.  But you’ve found it.  Now dip your toe in the water for two bucks — $2 for two months.  And join the real revolution.