lawmakers blocked a proposed ballot measure Thursday that
would have let voters decide whether to amend the state
constitution to ban same-sex marriage in the only
state that allows it.
The narrow vote
was a victory for marriage equality advocates and a blow
to efforts to reverse the historic court ruling that
legalized same-sex marriage in the state. More than
8,500 gay couples have married in Massachusetts since
it became legal in May 2004.
To get the
proposed ban on the 2008 statewide ballot would have
required 50 votes. It got 45, with 151 lawmakers
opposed. There was no debate.
As the tally was
announced, the halls of the statehouse erupted in
''We're proud of
our state today, and we applaud the legislature for
showing that Massachusetts is strongly behind fairness,''
said Lee Swislow, executive director of Gay and
Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
same-sex marriage vowed to press on, but Thursday's defeat
after more than three years of sometimes wrenching debate
could prove insurmountable. Any effort to mount a new
ballot question would take years at a time political
support in Massachusetts is swinging firmly behind
For gay couples,
the vote marked what could be the end of a struggle that
began in 2001, when seven same-sex couples, denied marriage
licenses, sued in Suffolk superior court.
statehouse, hundreds of people rallied on both sides of the
''We believe it's
unconstitutional not to allow people to vote on this,''
said Rebekah Beliveau, 24, of Lawrence, a student at Gordon
Conwell Theological Seminary who stood with fellow
college-age amendment supporters across the street
from the statehouse.
Advocates of the
amendment said they gathered 170,000 signatures
supporting the amendment, although the secretary of state's
office accepted only 123,000. ''We're standing up not
necessarily on the issue of same-sex marriage, but our
right to vote,'' Beliveau said.
Across the road,
same-sex marriage advocates stood on the front steps of
the capitol waving signs that read, ''Wrong to Vote on
Rights'' and ''All Families Are Equal.''
62, of Cambridge, came 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
''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?''
In contrast to
previous joint sessions, there was no debate Thursday.
Senate president Therese Murray opened the constitutional
convention by calling for a vote, and the session was
gaveled to a close immediately afterward. (AP)