Massachusetts lawmakers reject marriage ban proposal

A year after the nation's first state-sanctioned same-sex marriages went into effect, the Massachusetts legislature on Wednesday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and legalize civil unions.

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September 15 2005 11:00 PM ET

A year after the
nation's first state-sanctioned same-sex marriages went
into effect, the Massachusetts legislature on Wednesday
rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that
sought to ban same-sex marriage but legalize civil
unions. It was the second time the legislature had
confronted the measure, which was designed to be put before
voters on a statewide ballot in 2006. Under state law,
lawmakers were required to approve the measure in two
consecutive sessions before it could move forward.

After less than
two hours of debate, a joint session of the house and
senate voted 157-39 against the measure. It was a striking
departure from a year earlier, when hundreds of
protesters converged on Beacon Hill and sharply
divided legislators spent long hours debating the issue.
This year the crowds were tamer, and some legislators
who had initially supported the proposed change to the
state constitution said they no longer felt right
about denying the right of marriage to thousands of
same-sex couples.

"Gay marriage has
begun, and life has not changed for the citizens of
the commonwealth, with the exception of those who can now
marry," said state senator Brian Lees, a Republican
who had been a cosponsor of the amendment. "This
amendment, which was an appropriate measure or
compromise a year ago, is no longer, I feel, a compromise
today."

The state's
highest court ruled in November 2003 that same-sex couples
had a right under the state constitution to marry. The first
weddings took place on May 17, 2004—two months
after lawmakers began the process of trying to change
the constitution to reverse the court's ruling. Since
then, more than 6,100 couples have married. (AP)

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