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Mass. legislators defeat marriage amend.

BOSTON (BP)–The Massachusetts legislature dealt a devastating loss to the pro-family movement June 14, defeating a constitutional amendment that would have banned “gay marriage” in the state.

Needing only 50 votes — that is, one-fourth of the legislature — the proposal got only 45. Just days ago, supporters felt they had 57 votes, but pressure on key legislators by the state’s three top Democratic leaders — as well as pressure by national Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — apparently was more than enough to lead several Democratic lawmakers to change their minds. Support by the legislature would have placed the amendment on the 2008 ballot.

Back in January, when legislators voted on it the first time — it required passage in two consecutive sessions — it received 62 votes. That number dropped to 57 due to retirements, resignations and election losses.

The defeat means that, realistically, “gay marriage” likely is here to stay in Massachusetts. It’s been legal since May 2004. A front-page story in The Boston Globe showed homosexuals celebrating, with the headline, “Right of gays to marry set for years to come.”

Pro-family leaders might start from scratch, but they wouldn’t get to this stage until 2011 or 2012, at the earliest. They put the amendment before the legislature by collecting a record 170,000 signatures.

“The marriage amendment won its first legislative vote and was on track to win its second with a healthy margin,” said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and spokesman for VoteOnMarriage.org. “The unprecedented pressure by leaders on Beacon Hill — the rumors of patronage jobs by Governor [Deval] Patrick and arm-twisting by House Speaker [Salvatore] DiMasi — derailed the largest initiative petition drive by citizens in the Commonwealth’s history and this is a brutal loss for citizen-centered democracy.”

In the end, changes in leadership apparently made the difference. Just three years ago, the three top positions in state government were occupied by opponents of “gay marriage.” That started to change when former Speaker of the House Thomas Finneran stepped down in 2004 and was replaced by DiMasi. Then, amendment backer and former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney chose not to run for re-election last year and was replaced by Patrick. Finally, then-state Sen. President Robert E. Travaglini — who voted for the amendment in January — resigned earlier this year and was replaced by Sen. Therese Murray. DiMasi, Patrick and Murray all support “gay marriage” and put tremendous pressure on Democrats to change their votes, pro-family leaders in the state say. Pelosi even got in the mix, The Boston Globe reported, telling Massachusetts Democrats that a “gay marriage” fight in Massachusetts could hinder Democratic efforts in 2008 to win back the White House.

Nine legislators — seven Democrats and two Republicans — changed their votes since the January constitutional convention, The Globe reported. Additionally, two legislators who won seats last year and were thought to be supporters decided to vote against it. Another legislator who backed it the first time missed the vote because of a head injury.

“I can tell you right now that we did not know at 5 minutes to 1, when I went into the chamber, what the vote would be,” Murray said, according to The Globe. As Senate president, she presided over the meeting. “But I was committed to taking the vote, and I figured we’d know the vote when we took it. We had no comfort level.”

The marriage amendment push began in November 2003 when the highest court in the state issued its landmark decision legalizing “gay marriage.” It took effect six months later.

The amendment was defeated only weeks after statistics were released showing the number of “gay marriages” plummeting. In the last seven and a half months of 2004, 6,121 homosexual couples received marriage licenses from the state. But in 2005, that number dropped to 2,060, and in 2006, to 1,427. Pro-family leaders say there is not a huge demand for the licenses because, as a general rule, homosexual relationships are short-lived. That’s particularly the case with homosexual men, who accounted for only 36 percent of the “marriages” in the state.

Conservatives said they would work to defeat legislators who switched their votes and might try again.

“We’re not going away,” Mineau was quoted as saying in The Globe. “But it’s certainly a setback.”
Compiled by Michael Foust.

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