Supporters of same-sex marriage are scrambling to hold together a shaky coalition of lawmakers today in hopes of blocking a vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
Both sides in the emotion-packed debate said yesterday that an air of uncertainty has gripped today’s constitutional convention because of the recent Supreme Judicial Court ruling saying lawmakers have a constitutional duty to vote on the proposed amendment. Just weeks ago, advocates of same-sex marriage had confidently predicted the convention would quietly kill the petition, which is being pushed by social conservatives and Governor Mitt Romney.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen for sure, but it does seem certainly a possibility that a vote on the petition will take place,” said Arline Isaacson, cochairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.
On Nov. 9, 109 House and Senate lawmakers voted to recess the joint convention until today, without taking up the petition. Same-sex marriage supporters hoped to kill the measure today — the last day of the current legislative session — by recessing again. But if lawmakers vote directly on the measure, Isaacson said the petition has more than the 50 votes needed to advance it closer to the 2008 statewide ballot.
Isaacson and leaders of groups opposed to same-sex marriage agree that the unanimous decision last week by the Supreme Judicial Court has sharply shifted the dynamics of the political struggle. The justices declared that legislators had a constitutional duty to vote on a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage, but also said that the SJC could not order the Legislature to vote.
Many among the slim majority who on Nov. 9 had voted to recess the joint convention are struggling to reconcile their belief that gay marriage is a civil right not to be subject to popular referendum and the court’s unambiguous decision.
“We are very definitely struggling with the court’s clear decision that we are obligated to vote on the merits of the petition,” said state Representative Jay Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat and a strong advocate of same-sex marriage….