Civil Rights

Same-Sex Marriage Wins Big MA Battle; Legislature Bans Ballot Issue

In a pendulum swing from another vote taken earlier this year, legislators in Massachusetts voted today not to put a hotly contested proposed state constitutional amendment on the November ballot – whether the state should ban same-sex marriage by defining matrimony solely as a union between a man and a woman. Representatives of gay and lesbian rights groups hailed the defeat of the ballot listing as a major victory setting the table for further challenges nationally against laws and policies that bar same-sex couples from marrying.

A total of 50 votes were needed to get the proposed amendment on the ballot in Massachusetts, and the today vote was 151-45, reports the New York Times. At a preliminary vote in January, 62 legislators favored doing so. The newspaper credits an all-out lobbying effort by the Massachusetts governor, legislative leaders and national gay and lesbian rights groups with turning the tide on the ballot issue.

Massachusetts became the first state in the country to allow same-sex couples full marriage rights in 2004, following state supreme court rulings in late 2003 and 2004 that the legislature must enact a law providing for same-sex marriage to comply with the Massachusetts constitution, as this CNN article explains. The campaign for a constitutional amendment followed its enactment.

To date, at least 8,500 same-sex couples reportedly have married in Massachusetts. It remains the only state in the country that gives them full marriage rights, as Bloomberg notes.

“This was the focus of our national community,” Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told the New York Times. “To lose marriage here and to wage a fight in 2008 would have been extremely difficult and an extreme effort, and frankly a loss today would have been very demoralizing to the national movement.”

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