Thursday, 4:30 PM
Legislators will vote on same-sex marriage amendment, says a senior aide
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff
A senior State House aide has told The Globe that Beacon Hill Democratic leaders will call for a vote in today’s Constitutional Convention after determining they have persuaded enough lawmakers to back off their support of a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage
Their decision comes 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.
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.
If fewer than 50 of the state's 200 lawmakers support 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 would 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 three Democratic leaders had argued that a campaign over gay marriage would create chaos in local and national politics, with both sides spending millions of dollars.
Among those who said they would switch their votes are two Democrats: Representative James Vallee of Franklin and Representative Paul Kujawksi of Webster. Another potential vote for the amendment, Representative Angelo Puppolo, a Democrat from Springfield, told colleagues he was leaning against the amendment.
Supporters of the amendment lost a much-needed vote when Representative Anthony Verga, a Democrat from Gloucester, was hospitalized after falling yesterday in a State House hallway.
The amendment needs 50 votes out of the 200-member Legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions in order to advance to the 2008 ballot where voters will decide whether same-sex marriage will continue in Massachusetts. The amendment received 62 votes at the end of the last legislative session, but by this spring, through turnovers and resignations, the support had dwindled to 57.
The first gay marriages took place in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004, following a landmark decision by the state's high court declaring that all citizens have a right to wed. Massachusetts remains the only state in the country where gay couples can marry.