A good day for Massachusetts and constitutions

The proposal to amend the constitution of Massachusetts in order to forbid same-sex marriages has failed, after nearly two years of campaigning by opponents of equal rights to set the procedure in motion. The ban seemed likely to pass after the state's highest court, in a November 2003 decision, ordered the state government to allow marriages beginning on 17 May of last year. The legislature passed one measure in March approving the amendment by a vote of 105-92. But amendments to the constitution have to be approved by the legislature twice in two consecutive sessions: the second effort failed, 157-39. If the move had succeeded, it would have marked the first constitutional change designed to exclude a group of people from participation in legal rights since the Massachusetts Constitution took force in 1780.

What happened in the meantime? Some of the people who voted in favor of the first proposal are no longer in office. Also, the AP reports:
"Some lawmakers said they no longer oppose gay marriage after observing a year of weddings in the state. Others say they couldn't stomach the dilemma that would come with creating two classes of gay and lesbians: one group with full marriage rights, and one without."

But that is not all that is happening. Some of the harder-line people who supported the original amendment have abandoned it in favor of a more restrictive version, which would also forbid "civil unions," a compromise solution offering several protections short of those provided by marriage. They are gathering signatures for a proposal which would have to go through the same legislative procedures, which could then appear on the ballot in 2008 at the earliest.

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