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No amendment: Mass. Lawmakers adjourn until March 11

BOSTON (BP)–Massachusetts’ Constitutional Convention adjourned Feb. 12 without passing a marriage amendment, dealing a blow to conservatives and traditionalists trying to prevent same-sex “marriage” legalization within the state. The convention will meet again March 11.

Lawmakers met until midnight Eastern time — three hours past the allotted time — but voted on only one amendment the entire day. That amendment was the most conservative of the proposals and would have banned same-sex “marriage” without legalizing civil unions.

Needing 101 votes, the amendment, sponsored by Rep. Philip Travis, lost 103-98. It was backed by social conservatives in the days leading up to the convention.

Legislators then went back to the drawing board, hoping to come up with something that could pass. One proposal would have banned same-sex “marriage” but legalized civil unions. It was debated but did not reach a vote.

At 9 p.m. legislators suspended the rule on time limits and voted to debate until midnight, at which time a unanimous vote was required to continue debate. But, like the entire day, there was no unanimity and the convention adjourned.

Pro-family leaders expressed disappoint but pledged not to give up.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed that the business of the constitutional convention was not concluded [Feb. 12],” Ron Crews, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said in a statement. “Tens of thousands of Massachusetts citizens said they want to vote on marriage, and their lawmakers have not yet give them that opportunity.”

Rep. Brian Lees, a Republican and the minority leader, presented the compromise proposal late at night that would have banned same-sex “marriage” but legalized civil unions — thus disappointing both homosexual activists and pro-family groups.

“It’s the best package that we could put together,” he said. “… I think we need to be realistic here.”

But the proposal did not reach a vote. Throughout the day, proponents of same-sex “marriage” equated the homosexual rights movement with the civil rights movement, while opponents implored their colleagues to let the voters have a say.

At one point late in the night, several legislators who oppose same-sex “marriage” stormed out, shouting in unison, “We want a vote!” The final minutes of the night were spent watching same-sex “marriage” proponents filibuster, speaking one after another at the podium in hopes of reaching midnight. It worked.

An amendment must pass two consecutive legislative sessions before going to voters, which would be 2006 at the earliest.

The convention was held in reaction to a ruling by the Massachusetts high court that same-sex couples cannot be denied marriage licenses under the state constitution.

“You will be held responsible. You will have to answer to the electorate who sent you here,” Travis said early in the day. “… You take this away from them, you will not be able to answer to them. I charge you right now, you will not be able to face them when you go back because you’ve denied your neighbor the right to vote — for it, if they’re for it, and against it, if they’re against it.”

The convention, which began Feb. 11, saw spirited debate from both sides of the aisle on everything from the history of slavery to the teachings of the world’s major religions. All of the arguments were related to same-sex “marriage,” which has split the legislature as well as the state.

On Feb. 11 legislators defeated two separate versions of compromise amendments that would have banned same-sex “marriage” but would have pushed the state closer to legalizing Vermont-type civil unions. The first amendment stopped short of legalizing civil unions but nevertheless stated that the legislature “may enact” them. It failed 100-98. The second amendment would have legalized civil unions but was defeated 104-94.

The convention involved members from both the House and Senate meeting together in one chamber. On each amendment the Senate voted first by voice vote before the House voted by computer. The two sets of numbers then were combined.

One amendment, by Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios, an open homosexual, would have legalized same-sex “marriage.” It did not reach a vote.

The court’s ruling takes effect in mid-May, meaning that it is likely that same-sex couples in that state will be the first in the nation to receive marriage licenses. Some legislators are holding out hope that if an amendment passes a convention, the court will extend its stay to let the voters decide.

Debate covered a wide range of issues.

Rep. Byron Rushing, a Democrat, criticized black pastors in Boston for issuing a statement opposing same-sex “marriage.”

“There are a number of ministers in African American churches in this state that also have forgotten their relationship to the political, secular society,” Rushing said. “They have forgotten their relationship to the development of the civil rights struggle in this nation. They have forgotten their relationship to the struggle for the rights of African Americans.”

But Rep. Paul Frost, a Republican, said that any redefinition of marriage would lead to further redefinitions — a reference to polygamy. He said he is curious to see what same-sex “marriage” proponents would say in such an instance.

“Maybe 10 years from now or 15 years from now someone’s going to say, ‘We need to expand the definition of marriage even further,'” he said.
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  • Michael Foust