Thursday, 4:30 PM
Lobbyist keep counting votes as Constitutional Convention nears
By Yvonne Abraham, Michael Paulson, and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff, and April Yee, Globe Correspondent
As protests brewed in front of the State House, Arline Isaacson, a gay rights activist, walked up Beacon Street this morning with an intense expression on her face.
"My stomach is churning; it's eating its lining right now," said Isaacson, cochairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. "This is nerve-racking because it could go either way."
Kris Mineau, a leader in the campaign for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, said he was confident his side has enough votes to get the measure on the 2008 ballot.
"We're feeling very good about this," said Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, as he stood in front of his supporters. "We're confident we have the votes, and we're calling on Senate president Terry Murray to keep her word and hold the vote. If they don' t hold the vote, you know we have the votes."
Lobbying intensified on both sides of the issue today as legislators prepared to consider a vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. The proposal needs 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.
Representative James Vallee, a Democrat from Franklin, told the Milford Daily News that he planned to change his stance and vote against the amendment.
Another supporter of the ban, Representative Anthony J. Verga, a Democrat from Gloucester, slipped and fell in a State House hallway Wednesday and will not be able to attend the convention, according to the Associated Press.
But state Senator Robert Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican targeted as a possible conversion from pro-ban to anti-ban, said it took him 15 minutes to leave his street this morning because he was besieged by neighbors -- all Democrats -- urging him to vote for the amendment. One, a union truck driver and a Democrat who was out doing yard work, told Hedlund to tell House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi that if he did not get a chance to vote, he would never vote for another incumbent.
"I would say I think the exchange I had on my street is representative of the sentiment of a lot of people on our street and in my district, it had an affect on me," he said.
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley called lawmakers this morning, leaving messages encouraging them to vote to place the referendum on the ballot.
"He's just making some calls to legislators, leaving messages, saying it's not a Catholic issue only, but it's an issue of fairness for the 170,000 people who put their names on the referendum,'' said O'Malley's spokesman, Terrence C. Donilon. He declined to name the lawmakers O'Malley is calling, but said, "he's calling people who are getting unduly pressured, and who might need some reassurance."
The executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, Edward F. Saunders Jr., said the bishops are arguing to lawmakers that today's vote "is not a vote for or against same-sex marriage, but a vote to let the people make the decision. The cardinal is just asking that people be allowed to weigh in on this.''