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governor warns of "circus" if marriage
amendment is on ballot

governor warns of "circus" if marriage
amendment is on ballot

amendment is on ballot " >

Gov. Deval Patrick warned Thursday that Massachusetts will be crippled by a ''political circus'' if a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the only U.S. state that currently allows it makes it to a statewide vote.

The Democratic governor, speaking to reporters in Boston a day after lawmakers delayed a vote on the proposed amendment, said he was actively lobbying legislators to kill the amendment.

''If this does get to a popular ballot, there is very little other business that will get done in Massachusetts politics and policy making while that is pending,'' Patrick said.

The proposed amendment declares marriage to be a union between only a man and a woman and needs the backing of 25%--or at least 50 lawmakers--in two successive sittings of the legislature to make the 2008 ballot. About 57 lawmakers support the amendment, advocates on both sides of the issue agree.

The Massachusetts supreme judicial court ruled in 2003 that the state constitution guarantees gay couples the right to marry. A few other U.S. states offer civil unions with similar rights for gay couples, but only Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage.

The proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage was approved in January by the previous legislature. If it makes it onto the ballot and residents approve it, the amendment would leave Massachusetts's existing same-sex marriages intact but ban any new ones.

Lawmakers on Wednesday postponed a vote until at least June 14.

''Rather than turn Massachusetts into a political circus for a national debate over something which is largely settled here, my own view is that we ought to resolve this on the merits so that it stays off the ballot, and to do so at the constitutional convention,'' Patrick said.

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which collected more than 120,000 signatures in support of the amendment, called Patrick's comments ''over the top.''

''I can't imagine having a ballot question that would turn the state into a circus and have lawmakers unable to do their job,'' he said.

Last fall, eight states voted on amendments to ban same-sex marriage: Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin approved them. Arizona bucked the national trend by refusing to change its constitution to define marriage as a one-man, one-woman institution.

Similar amendments had passed previously in all 20 states to consider them.

Mineau said lawmakers opposing same-sex marriage were ''very solid'' in their position.

''We're very confident that the votes will hold,'' he said.

But Patrick said he would keep lobbying.

''We're working very hard to make the case to members in both houses that the ballot initiative ought not to be used as a means to take away people's civil rights,'' the governor said. (Ken Maguire, AP)

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governor warns of "circus" if marriage
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