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Vote on Travis measure shows split on gay marriage

Though the Legislature took several key votes during two days of debate, an amendment offered yesterday by a Democratic state representative from Rehoboth offered the clearest picture of where Massachusetts lawmakers stand on gay marriage, undiluted by the issue of civil unions.

The amendment, authored by Representative Philip Travis and defeated on a 103-94 vote, would have amended the state constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, saying that relationship promotes "the stability and welfare of society and the best interest of children." It also stated that "nothing in this article requires or prohibits civil unions," but, unlike other proposed amendments, it did not establish those unions, define them, or explicitly give the Legislature the ability to create them.

According to demographic data compiled by the Globe, male lawmakers were more likely to support the amendment than were female lawmakers, House members more than senators, and Republican legislators more than Democratic.

Forty-two percent of the Democrats in the House and Senate voted for the Travis amendment, while 79 percent of Republican legislators voted in favor of it. Sixteen percent of female lawmakers voted for the amendment, while 53 percent of male legislators voted in favor.

The Archdiocese of Boston and Catholic activists have been outspoken in their opposition to gay marriage, but Catholic lawmakers were split on the Travis amendment, with 51 percent voting in favor and 48 percent voting against. (One Catholic lawmaker did not vote.)

The split among Catholics was partly due to the fact that many female Catholic legislators opposed the amendment. Other non-Catholic Christian lawmakers supported it, 56 percent to 44 percent.

All 13 Jewish lawmakers voted against the Travis amendment, with several of them likening the denial of marriage rights to gays to the discriminatory Nazi laws against Jews around the Holocaust. "It is absolutely amazing to me that we are going to amend our constitution, for the first time since it was adopted in 1780, to strip away the rights of a group of people," said Senator Cynthia S. Creem, a Newton Democrat who is Jewish.

The Travis vote also highlighted the ideological gap between the liberal Senate and the more conservative House. Fifty-three percent of House members voted for the Travis amendment, while only 23 percent of senators did.

Scott S. Greenberger can be reached at greenberger@globe.com.

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