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Massachusetts
governor urges no vote on marriage amendment

Massachusetts
governor urges no vote on marriage amendment

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Massachusetts governor-elect Deval Patrick urged legislators on Tuesday not to vote on a constitutional amendment meant to ban same-sex marriage.

Calling it a ''question of conscience,'' Massachusetts governor-elect Deval Patrick urged legislators on Tuesday not to vote on a constitutional amendment meant to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, the only state that currently allows it. ''I believe that adults should be free to choose whom they wish to love and to marry,'' Patrick said shortly before lawmakers were to meet for the final day of their session.

Outside the statehouse, crowds of same-sex marriage supporters and opponents waved signs as legislators began arriving. The amendment's backers had collected 170,000 signatures to get the amendment on the 2008 ballot, but it still needs the legislature's approval. Tuesday is the last day of the legislative session.

Last fall the legislature angered the amendment's backers and the Gov. Mitt Romney when it recessed without voting on the issue. Senate president Robert Travaglini didn't immediately say if he would force a vote on Tuesday.

Patrick, a supporter of gay couples' right to marriage, met with house speaker Salvatore DiMasi to lobby against taking an up or down vote on the amendment, which would leave Massachusetts's existing same-sex marriages intact but ban any more. ''Above all, this is a question of conscience,'' Patrick, a Democrat, said in a statement. ''Using the initiative process to give a minority fewer freedoms than the majority, and to inject the state into fundamentally private affairs, is a dangerous precedent and an unworthy one for this commonwealth.''

About 8,000 same-sex couples have wed in Massachusetts since the supreme judicial court ruled in 2003 that the state constitution guarantees gay couples the right to marry. A few other states offer civil unions with similar rights for gay couples, but only Massachusetts allows full marriage.

Backers of the amendment gathered at the foot of the statehouse steps on Tuesday with signs reading ''Let the People Vote.'' Many argue it should be up to the people, not the courts, to define something as important as marriage. ''Legislators are sent to Beacon Hill to vote on a matter, not to not vote on a matter,'' said amendment backer Paul Ferro, 30, of Norton.

Supporters of same-sex marriage, who held their own rally across Beacon Street, said the civil rights of a minority should not be put to a popular vote. ''Let the People Marry,'' read one retort.

Some lawmakers have said they wouldn't vote on the amendment issue because the ballot question would write discrimination into the constitution. (AP)

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