Massachusetts' lawmakers approved a ballot measure this week on a proposed constitutional amendment banning "gay marriage." On the last day of the current legislative session, the vote, held in a joint session of the House and the Senate, passed with 61 votes in favor and 132 votes against. The measure required only 25%, or 50 votes, of the legislature to pass.
The proposed amendment measure must be approved a second time in the new legislative session before being put on the ballot in 2008.
"Gay marriage" was legalized in Massachusetts in 2003 when the state's Supreme Court ruled that it could not bar homosexual couples from getting married. Since then, supporters of traditional marriage have been working to have the issue put on a public ballot for the citizens of Massachusetts to vote on.
This week's vote was initiated largely due to the work of the group VoteOnMarriage.org which organized the gathering of approximately 170,000 signatures — almost triple the amount necessary to bring an issue to a public vote. The signatures were delivered to the Secretary of State in December 2005.
The legislators vote on the amendment ballot measure was required to be held in a Constitution Convention, a joint session of the House and the Senate, because of the overwhelming number of signatures submitted in favor.
When brought before the legislature, lawmakers adjourned twice over the last year without voting on the proposed amendment. Legal action, headed by Governor Mitt Romney, attempted to force the lawmakers to vote on the issue but the Massachusetts' Supreme Court ruled that they could not force another branch of the government to act.
The Democratic Governor-elect, Deval Patrick voiced his disapproval of allowing the people of Massachusetts' to vote on the issue saying that he thought putting the issue on a public ballot was "irresponsible and wrong." Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi has said in the past that he would work to ensure that the marriage amendment "never, ever appears as a question on the ballot."
It was imperative that the measure be voted on Tuesday, the last day of the current legislative session, or the amendment would have been considered dead and supporters would have had to begin the whole signature gathering process from the beginning.
Kris Mineau, president of Massachusetts Family Institute and spokesman for VoteOnMarriage.org. said, "Today's victory is about restoring the integrity and authority of the people's constitutional right to petition their government. It says to the 170,000 citizens who signed the petitions for the right to vote on marriage that democracy still works in Massachusetts for those who are willing to take a stand for justice."