convention set for September 14 in Massachusetts

state legislators voted Wednesday to hold a constitutional
convention next month to debate a proposed amendment to the
state constitution that would replace same-sex
marriage in the state with Vermont-style civil unions.
Members of the house and senate have already
given initial approval to the amendment, but the state
constitution requires them to approve identical
language in two successive sessions before the amendment can
be put before state voters. The supreme judicial court
legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2003,
making it the only state in which such unions are
legal. Opponents then proposed a constitutional
amendment that would outlaw same-sex marriage but permit
civil unions.

today’s announcement, it looks like
September 14 will be the moment of truth for the
legislature in Massachusetts," said Marty Rouse,
campaign director of MassEquality.

“We urge
legislators to reject the discriminatory
Travaglini-Lees amendment, which would repeal marriage
equality and replace it with separate-and-unequal
civil unions.

We ask legislators
to ensure that the fundamental civil rights of gays and
lesbians continue to be protected by the
constitution and not determined by referendum.”

Legislative approval of the amendment has been
thrown into doubt after some supporters in the initial
vote announced they had changed their mind. The most
recent is Rep. Anthony Petruccelli, a Democrat, who was
quoted this week as saying he will not vote for the proposal
despite supporting it last year. Petruccelli told
Bay Windows, which features news of
interest to gays and lesbians, that legalized same-sex
marriage has "made strong unions among people who have
not had the opportunity until that time to get married."
The legislative session on Wednesday, itself
technically a constitutional convention, lasted barely
a minute. The motion to reconvene September 14 passed
immediately on a voice vote.
In June the Massachusetts Family Institute
submitted a citizens' initiative petition that would
amend the constitution to define marriage as the union
of a man and a woman. Gov. Mitt Romney withdrew his
initial support for a compromise and is backing the
initiative petition. He said the compromise "muddied"
the issue of same-sex marriage by legalizing civil unions.
The initiative is now being reviewed, along with
all other proposed 2006 ballot questions, by Atty.
Gen. Tom Reilly. If it is approved, proponents
would have to gather about 66,000 certified signatures to
get it on the ballot. Currently, Vermont and
Connecticut are the only states that have legalized
civil unions for same-sex couples. (AP)

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