It’s a Monday afternoon at the Massachusetts State House, and the third-floor office of Governor Deval Patrick is crammed with legislators, aides, community organizers, activists, and journalists. Patrick plants himself at his desk, in front of a three-page bill awaiting his signature and a constellation of blue-and-gold pens. (He’ll sign a portion of his name with each and hand them out as keepsakes.) It is, at first blush, a familiar Beacon Hill tableau: a governor about to execute his constitutional duty; lawmakers who worked on the bill looking on approvingly; interest-group leaders eagerly awaiting its addition to the books. Patrick makes light of the conspicuous lack of suspense. “You’re all holding your breath,” he says, “like you don’t know how this is going to turn out.”
In fact, many in the room could be forgiven for waiting until the ink dries before exhaling. So unlikely is this moment, and so remarkable the assemblage of people here sanctioning this new law, that few would have believed it possible a year earlier.