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January 02, 2007

Mass. Lawmakers Okay Gay Marriage Ban For Vote

There was speculation they'd adjourn without ever voting on the state constitutional amendment either way. Bu t they've buckled to pressure and voted to put an amendment overturning the court-imposed gay marriage law to the public.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts, the only state where gay marriage is legal, voted Tuesday to allow a proposed constitutional amendment to move forward that would effectively ban the practice.

The amendment's backers had collected 170,000 signatures to get a question on the 2008 ballot asking voters to declare marriage to only be between a man and a woman, but they still needed the approval of legislators in two consecutive sessions.

On Tuesday, 61 lawmakers voted in favor of moving the measure forward, compared to 132 opposed. The amendment need 50 votes of support to advance.

If it makes it on the ballot and residents approve it, the constitutional amendment would leave Massachusetts' existing same-sex marriages intact but ban any new ones.

About 8,000 same-sex couples have wed in Massachusetts since the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that the state Constitution guarantees gays the right to marry. A few other states offer civil unions with similar rights for gay couples, but only Massachusetts allows gay marriage.

Backers of the amendment argue that it should be up to the people, not the courts, to define something as important as marriage.

Supporters of gay marriage say the civil rights of a minority should not be put to a popular vote.

Democratic Gov.-elect Deval Patrick on Tuesday had met with leading lawmakers and urged them to skip the vote, calling it a "question of conscience" and saying the amendment process was being used "to consider reinserting discrimination into the constitution."

Four years of this guy. I can't wait to get out of here.


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