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Massachusetts Constitutional Convention
Latest Updates

6:10 p.m. | 6:00 p.m. | 4:50 p.m. | 3:00 p.m. | 1:50 p.m. | 1:30 p.m. | 1:15 p.m. | 12:00 p.m. | 11:30 a.m. | 11 a.m. | Photo essay

6:10 p.m.
The Travaglini-Lees amendment passed 105 to 92.

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6:00 p.m.
Legislators are currently taking a final vote on the Travaglini-Lees amendment

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4:50 p.m.
Legislators debate Travaglini-Lees amendment

State Senator Marian Walsh of West Roxbury took the podium to say that she would not be supporting the Leadership Amendment, now known as the Travaglini-Lees Amendment. Referring to the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling finding that banning same-sex couples from marriage violated the state constitution, she said: "The decision is ahead of our mainstream culture and even ahead of my own sensibilities . . . but my level of comfort is not the appropriate monitor for the constitutional rights of others."

Walsh talked about the history of marriage, describing it as "colorful" and noted that it was traditionally "one man and many women." She added that, "The many have no right to oppress the few" and likened the Commonwealth to a "moral glacier" that was slowly moving toward more enlightened society.

Walsh choked up when she spoke about the response her support for gay marriage rights has generated among constituents. "I recognize the criticism that my decision has received," she said, but reiterated that she would oppose the Travaglini-Lees amendment. In the Great Hall, where many pro-gay marriage supporters are watching the debate, her remarks prompted a standing ovation.

In something of a surprise, state representative Paul Loscocco of Holliston, who had hoped to put forward an amendment that would ban gay marriage and merely call on the legislature to create civil unions in the future, also took to the podium to say that he would not be supporting the Travaglini-Lees Amendment. "The voters didn't ask us to consider civil unions," he said.

Loscocco also added that the legislature should pass a law making marriage solely a religious term and bringing civil unions to all couples, gay and straight. His remarks also brought approval from the gay marriage proponents watching the debate in the Great Hall. Their approval seemed tied less to their agreement with what he said, but with his declaration that he would vote against the amendment.

— reported by Deirdre Fulton

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3:00 p.m.
Last vote coming up

The legislature is currently in recess. When it reconvenes it's expected to take a final vote on the revised Leadership Amendment. If the legislature approves of the amendment, then it goes to next year's Constitutional Convention for approval. If it wins approval in next year's ConCon, it will go before voters as a ballot question in 2006.

If the amendment doesn't win a majority vote, then it will have failed and because no further amendments can be considered, the issue will be considered dead. The strategy of pro-gay marriage legislators who have voted twice in favor of the amendment today is to vote against it at the next vote. It's unclear, however, if they have the votes to kill it.

Ron Crews, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, is now telling legislators to "vote their conscience" on the issue. Hes not advising them one way or the other. Crews acknowledged that the first two procedural votes were defeats for the anti-gay marriage forces.

— reported by Deirdre Fulton
Leadership amendment wins second vote

By a vote of 111 to 86, the redrafted Leadership amendment was approved.

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1:50 p.m.
Legislature debating "religious liberties"

The ConCon has reconvened but hasn't taken up the motion to vote again on the changes to the Leadership Amendment. Instead, state representative John Rogers spoke about his fear that the Leadership Amendment, as currently written, is "perilous" to the religious freedom of the Catholic Church and other religions that do not recognize same-sex marriages. "My fear is in our zeal to create new constitutional rights for a segment of the population we'll trample on the first protected right in our constitution."

Rogers then introduced an amendment to add language to the Leadership Amendment that would protect religious organizations from having to recognize same-sex marriages.

The legislature is currently debating that amendment.

— reported by Kristen Lombardi

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1:30 p.m.
Removing religion from the debate

Outside the State House, April Perry, statewide chair of Defend Marriage Massachusetts, handed out flyers on the proposed federal marriage amendment. Perry explains that Defend Marriage Massachusetts is not affiliated with any religion or political party. "We're using social science data to show why we need to preserve marriage," she says.

Surveying the back-and-forth arguing between the two sides, and noting some of the signs held by anti-gay marriage activists such as JESUS CONDEMNS THE DEMONS OF SODOMY and SODOMY IS A SIN, Perry says, "I'd like to talk to those people. The point of this isn't religious. It's become that for a lot of people but on this issue it's not going to get us anywhere."

— reported by Deirdre Fulton

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1:15 p.m.
Waiting for a recount

The legislature is scheduled to reconvene any moment now. When it does, it will vote again on the changes to the Leadership Amendment. Senate President Robert Travaglini allowed a motion to go through right before the ConCon recessed calling for a reconsideration of the vote just taken on the Leadership Amendment. That motion passed on a voice vote.

Gay marriage proponents want the vote to stand. Anti-gay marriage proponents are hoping to vote down the changes to the amendment.

Meanwhile, anti-gay marriage proponents have parked themselves outside the House Gallery -- a space dominated by gay marriage supporters in the first two sessions of the ConCon. There are still hordes of gay marriage supporters down the hall. The juxtaposition of the two groups has lead to odd scenes in which Ron Crews, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, and Arline Isaacson, cochair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, take turns using the same chair to stand on and address the troops.

— reported by Kristen Lombardi

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12:00 p.m.
Amendment to Leadership amendment passes

The state legislature just voted 118 to 81 to adopt new language for the Leadership amendment to the state constitution that would ban gay marriages but create civil unions. The new language specifies that civil unions do not get federal benefits and that state benefits that come from civil unions flow to individuals rather than couples.

— reported by Kristen Lombardi

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11:30 a.m.
Employing irony in the marriage debate

Outside the State House, there are many more gay rights protesters than anti-gay marriage demonstrators. One of the anti-gay marriage proponents, Susie Hicks from Woburn, said this was because everyone thinks gay marriage is a "done deal." She was at the State House with her friend Angela Mitchell, also from Woburn. Mitchell held a sign that read WE WANT THE BAY STATE NOT THE GAY STATE, THAT WOULD MEAN A SAD STATE.

Her sign was in sharp contrast to some of those held by gay marriage supporters that focus on gays who've made history such as Leonardo da Vinci, Alan Turing, who invented the computer, and Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote "America the Beautiful." The sign focusing on Turning, for example, reads: DESTROY THE COMPUTER! IT'S A HOMOSEXUAL INVENTION BY ALAN TURING. WHO CARES IF HE CRACKED THE GERMAN ENIGMA CODE AND WON WORLD WAR II. IT'S A HOMO'S DEVIL MACHINE.

Tom Lang of Manchester by the Sea held one of the signs -- which have taken some viewers a few moments to figure out. "We're trying to show how important gay people are to the American culture," Lang explained. "We're not mental. We're not immoral. But we're important to society and interwoven into the tapestry of America."

— reported by Deirdre Fulton

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11 a.m.
Spiritual warfare

Opponents of gay marriage are easy to spot at the State House today. Many are wearing bright orange scarves and vests with the logo MARRIAGE ONE MAN, ONE WOMAN on the front and back. On the backs of some vests is a graphic of two women in a circle with a line through it. Other vests have a graphic of two men in a circle with a line through it.

Juan Carlos Huertas, a vicar at Congregation Lion of Judah church in Boston was handing out scarves and explained that orange is the color of spiritual warfare. He said his church was affiliated with the Black Ministerial Alliance as well as the Confederation of Hispanic Pastors of New England.

"Were against the darkness, all the evil behind gay marriage and gay civil unions," Huertas explained. "Were not against any people, were against the darkness."

— reported by Kristen Lombardi

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Issue Date: March 29, 2004
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