Same-Sex Marriage Issue won't make ballot
State lawmakers opposed to a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage found out less than five minutes before the vote that there was enough support to kill the amendment.
Exactly what was promised by top legislative leaders to convince nine representatives and senators to switch their votes is unknown.
But it was enough to deliver what supporters of same-sex marriage are heralding as a historic victory for civil rights in Massachusetts.
"I am euphoric and exhausted. But without the leadership, this never would have happened," said Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.
"We're so proud and so grateful," said Isaacson, tears welling in her eyes.
Members of the House and Senate voted yesterday, by a thin margin, to reject a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage in the state.
The vote, 45-151, fell just five votes short of the 50 needed to put the question on the 2008 ballot, ending a four-year struggle to reverse the controversial court ruling legalizing gay marriage.
Berkshire legislators have been unanimous in their opposition to the amendment.
Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, has supported same-sex marriage rights since he was elected last November.
"I'm glad it's over, because if you ask people what their top priorities are, it wouldn't be one of the first things that comes up," Downing said. "I'm looking forward to getting to work on people's priorities."
Downing added that he doesn't believe the pressure used to change other lawmakers minds' was as enormous as some believe.
"I think the descriptions of those efforts were inflated. I don't think it was nearly as blatant and obvious as people would make it out to be," Downing said. "I don't think any tactics used were below the board. I think they were standard fare for what is a very emotional and very tight vote."
The win for supporters of gay marriage came after a week of feverish lobbying on Beacon Hill, as some of the state's most powerful politicians, including Gov. Deval L. Patrick, used their clout to switch enough votes to block the amendment.
A triumphant Patrick joined House Speaker Sal DiMasi, D-Boston, and Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, in the Statehouse to celebrate their political victory.
"What this proved to me is the process works as the process should," Patrick said. "I am so pleased about the outcome."
When asked about the rumors of bribery and arm twisting, Patrick denied giving jobs to any of the lawmakers who changed their vote.
"We'll be doing a number of fundraisers and district visits, and I'll be happy to do that," Patrick said. "There was a lot of rich conversation, and most of what we committed to is to show up and support their political courage."
The sponsors of the constitutional amendment, however, were more than skeptical about the tactics used to sway a number of lawmakers.
"In all honesty, we're shocked to have that many votes change literally overnight. There had to be some unbelievable motivation for that to happen," said Kris Mineau, president Mass Family Institute. "We're going to watch very carefully the political paths of some of these vote changers for quid pro quo down the road."
Legislators voted in January, by a slim 62-134 margin, to advance the proposed constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage. A constitutional amendment must get the support of the Legislature in two consecutive sessions for the question to appear on the ballot.
Mineau said he wasn't sure whether his organization would try again to get the requisite signatures for another petition to ban same-sex marriage. The soonest such a question could reach the ballot now is 2010.
"Three years have passed since same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts, the result of a landmark ruling in 2003 by the state's Supreme Judicial Court. More than 8,500 same-sex couples have wed in the state.
Hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters, who crowded the Statehouse and Beacon Street this morning, erupted into applause after the vote was announced.
Scott Laugenour, of Lenox, drove to Boston Wednesday to spend the night in the city so that he could be at the Statehouse early to witness the vote.
"On the drive down, I thought to myself, 'Wow.' This is going to be emotional," Laugenour said.
He and his husband, Mark Woodward, married in Pittsfield on Aug. 22, 2005.
"Women's suffrage. Civil rights. Many issues in our enlightenment have not come about because of a popular vote," he said.
Rep. Denis Guyer, D-Dalton, has supported same-sex marriage since the beginning.
"We took a vote today to not write discrimination into the state Constitution and I'm proud of that," Guyer said.
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