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Legislature kills proposed amendment to ban gay marriage
By Jennifer Peter, Associated Press, 07/17/02
BOSTON -- Lawmakers today killed a citizen-initiated ballot question that would have banned gay marriage as hundreds of supporters and opponents crowded the State House.
A joint session of the House and Senate derailed the initiative by adjourning the Constitutional Convention immediately without taking a vote. That sparked an outcry from supporters of the amendment.
The 137-53 vote to adjourn blocks the amendment initiated by 130,000 citizens to make same-sex marriages unconstitutional in Massachusetts and accord marriage benefits only to unions between one man and one woman.
To appear on the ballot in November 2004, the voter-initiated question had to be approved by 50 of the 200 elected representatives and senators before this two-year legislative session ends July 31 and again during the 2003-2004 session.
The immediate adjournment means that the only way the question could proceed is if acting Gov. Jane Swift were to use her executive powers to call the Legislature back into the Constitutional Convention.
Swift's spokesman last week said that she opposed the amendment and was unlikely to reconvene the convention.
Since the first session May 1, the two sides have been locked in an often hostile debate about civil rights, the institution of marriage and the democratic process.
Backers of the amendment, who argue that citizens and not judges should define marriage in Massachusetts, have accused opponents of distorting the initiative as a hateful proposal to strip same-sex couples of health, bereavement, and inheritance benefits.
Opponents of the measure argue that there are certain things -- including the majority's right to strip rights from a minority -- that should not be put to a popular or legislative vote.
The initiative, they argue, would harm Massachusetts families by depriving unmarried couples and their children of health care benefits and other essential rights.