People on both
sides of the debate about same-sex marriage in
Massachusetts returned to the state legislature Thursday,
bracing for what could be their final showdown in the
only U.S. state to allow gays and lesbians to marry.
At issue is
whether lawmakers will allow a proposed constitutional
amendment banning same-sex marriage to go before
Massachusetts residents for a vote.
the fate of the proposed amendment was too close to call,
although the state's new Democratic governor Deval Patrick
and his fellow Democratic leaders in the state House
of Representatives and Senate were within a handful of
votes of killing the measure.
right down to the wire,'' Patrick said as he left his
office Wednesday night. ''I'm not going to take anything for
To reach voters
in a statewide ballot in 2008, the proposal needs the
backing of a quarter of the state's legislators -- 50
lawmakers -- in two successive sittings of the
Legislature. It won approval in January on the final
day of the last session.
opponents agree that eight lawmakers who supported the
measure then must change their votes Thursday to keep the
question from going to voters. But turnover in the
newly composed Legislature -- and Patrick's vow
to kill the measure -- fueled doubts about the outcome
''We believe it's
unconstitutional not to allow people to vote on this,''
said Rebekah Beliveau, a 24-year-old student at Gordon
Conwell Theological Seminary who stood with fellow
college-age amendment supporters across the street
from the legislature's building.
up not necessarily on the issue of same-sex marriage,
but our right to vote,'' Beliveau said.
In a development
that could affect the vote margin, state Rep. Anthony J.
Verga took a tumble at the Statehouse on Wednesday and was
taken to a hospital, where he was undergoing tests. He
previously voted for the amendment, and his office did
not answer calls seeking to find out whether he would
be able to vote Thursday or whether he had reconsidered
marriage for same-sex couples fear Massachusetts voters, if
given the chance, would reverse the landmark court decision
that allowed the practice. Several other states offer
domestic partnerships or civil unions to same-sex
couples, but Massachusetts is the only state where
same-sex marriage is legal.
same-sex marriage advocates stood on the front steps of
the Legislature waving signs that read, ''Wrong to Vote on
Rights'' and ''All Families Are Equal.''
62, came over with fellow members of her Baptist church in
an effort to rebuff the image that strict followers of the
Bible are opposed to same-sex marriage.
''I think being
gay is like being left-handed,'' Chandler said. ''If we
decided left-handed people couldn't marry, what kind of
society would we be?''
At least one
lawmaker who previously voted for the amendment said he was
unsure now, after meeting privately with Patrick.
''I'm going to
take one more night to sleep on it,'' said Sen. Robert L.
Hedlund, a Republican. ''Personally, I'm not threatened by
same-sex marriage ... but obviously there's a lot of
people that feel strongly based on the volume of input
Supporters of the
amendment were also lobbying intensely. Kris Mineau,
president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said the
group is confident the measure will pass.
indication we have so far is that our votes are holding
firm,'' he said. ''These are people of principle who
believe in the people's right to define marriage.''
Rep. Sean Curran,
a Democrat, voted in favor of the amendment in January
and said he has been bombarded with calls urging him to hold
switching,'' he said. ''I'm going to keep the position I'm
sticking to.'' (Steve LeBlanc, AP)