Thursday, 4:30 PM
Legislators vote to defeat same-sex marriage ban
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff
A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was swiftly defeated today by a joint session of the Legislature by a vote of 45 to 151, eliminating any chance of getting it on the ballot in November 2008. The measure needed at least 50 votes to advance.
The vote came without debate after House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, Senate President Therese Murray, and Governor Deval Patrick conferred this morning and concluded that they have the votes to kill the proposal.
"Today's vote was not just a victory for marriage equality, it was a victory for equality itself," Patrick told reporters as cheers echoed in the State House. "Whenever we affirm the equality of anyone, we affirm the equality of everyone."
The three leaders - along with gay rights activists - spent the last several days intensely lobbying a dozen or more state representatives and state senators who had previously supported the amendment but signaled that they were open to changing their positions.
Because fewer than 50 of the state's 200 lawmakers supported the amendment, it will not appear on the 2008 ballot, giving gay marriage advocates a major victory in their battle with social conservatives to keep same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts.
Opponents of gay marriage face an increasingly tough battle to win legislative approval of any future petitions to appear on a statewide ballot. The next election available to them is 2012.
The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the group that spearheaded the court case that led to the Supreme Judicial Court's 2003 decision to legalize same-sex marriage, issued a statement praising the vote.
"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 Advocates & Defenders. "The vote today was the triumph of time, experience, and understanding over fear and prejudice."
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute that backed the amendment, pledged to continue fighting, but wouldn't commit to presenting another proposed amendment.
"The governor and house speaker have been unrelenting in fighting the natural course of advancement on the marriage amendment and the people's right to vote," Mineau said in a statement. "We will look very closely at the circumstances by which legislators switched their vote for ethics violations or improprieties."
The proposal needed the votes of 50 legislators in two consecutive sessions to make it on the 2008 ballot as a referendum. In January, the measure passed its first convention with 62 votes, but it fell short today by 5 votes.
Joyce Durst, an opponent of same-sex marriage from Mattapan, had come the State House today to pray that the measure passed. When the amendment failed, she pulled a crumpled tissue from her pocket and began to sob.
"I'm sick," said Durst, 60. "I'm sick."
Clare Alloy-Relihan, 22, from Norton, had the opposite reaction. "I could not be happier right now," she said.
Globe correspondent April Yee contributed to this report.