coalition of lawmakers cobbled together to support a
Massachusetts constitutional amendment banning same-sex
marriage is falling apart, virtually assuring that for
now same-sex marriage will remain legal in the state,
according to an Associated Press poll. The survey,
conducted September 6-9, found at least 104 lawmakers
who plan to vote against the proposed amendment, which
would ban same-sex marriage but create civil unions.
The amendment, which is scheduled for a vote on
Wednesday, needs the support of at least 101 of the
state's 200 lawmakers to get on the 2006 ballot. "It's
a dangerous precedent to take away rights that have
been granted by the court for an identifiable group of
people," said Democratic representative James Brendan Leary.
Last year, months after the state's supreme
judicial court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal,
the amendment banning it passed 105-92. It must pass a
second vote to get on next year's ballot, however.
Reasons for the faltering support are rooted in
the language of the amendment, which was intended as a
compromise between foes of same-sex marriage and
supporters of gay rights. It ultimately had an opposite
effect, however, alienating opponents of marriage equality
by creating civil unions and offending gay rights
supporters by banning same-sex marriage.
For the survey, the AP attempted to reach all
200 lawmakers with at least two phone calls. Of those
polled, 104 said they would vote against the proposal,
19 said they would support it, and three said they were
undecided. Opposition to the measure is likely deeper than
the survey indicates. Several lawmakers who voted
against it last year couldn't be reached. Others who
have voiced strong opposition declined to respond.
More than a dozen lawmakers who voted for the
amendment the first time around said they would change
their votes this week, either because they fully
support same-sex marriage or oppose civil unions. Others
said that after more than a year of watching gay and
lesbian couples marry, they see no need to rescind the
right. Since Massachusetts's same-sex marriages
started taking place in May 2004, thousands of gay and
lesbian couples have tied the knot. "I haven't talked
to any married heterosexual couples that have felt
threatened by same-sex marriages," said Democratic
representative Anne M. Gobi, who said she couldn't
support the compromise amendment, as she did last year.
Many foes of marriage equality said they prefer
a second, much stricter amendment that would ban
same-sex marriage without granting civil unions. The
earliest that proposal could go before voters is 2008. "We
are going back to the beginning and defining marriage
as the union of one man and one woman," said
Democratic representative Philip Travis, who voted for
the compromise amendment last year but now plans to vote
Some lawmakers who have supported same-sex
marriage in the past declined to respond to the
survey, saying they believed the vote was still too
narrow, and many new lawmakers planned to vote against the
measure because of campaign promises.
Still, not everyone is switching their vote.
Democratic representative James H. Fagan does not
oppose same-sex marriage, but he's sticking with his
yes vote on the constitutional amendment because he wants
the state's citizens to decide. "I support their right
to vote," Fagan said. "I would suggest that people do
not vote to amend our constitution." (AP)