BOSTON (AP) — An Associated Press survey of Massachusetts
lawmakers shows a Legislature deeply divided over a proposed
constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state where the
nation’s first legally sanctioned same-sex weddings could
take place as early as May.

The 199 House and Senate lawmakers — all of whom are up
for re-election in November — could take up the volatile
issue at a constitutional convention as early as tomorrow.

The issue gained urgency last week when the state’s high
court declared that anything less than full-fledged marriage for
gays in Massachusetts would be unconstitutional. The opinion put
Massachusetts lawmakers at the center of a political maelstrom that
is being closely watched across the country and could play a role
in the presidential race.

All of Massachusetts’ legislators were contacted by
telephone and e-mail by the AP since last week’s Supreme
Judicial Court opinion, and 138 responded. Of those, 59 said they
would oppose the constitutional amendment, while 65 said they could
support it. An additional 14 said they were undecided. Sixty-one
did not respond.

There is probably nothing lawmakers can do to prevent the
nation’s first gay marriages from taking place May 17. The
earliest the proposed amendment could reach the ballot is November
2006.

That is because the proposal first needs to be approved by a
majority of lawmakers in two successive legislative sessions. That
means a revamped Legislature could take up the issue after next
fall’s elections.

Veteran statehouse observers called the situation extremely
fluid, with some lawmakers flip-flopping under intense lobbying by
members of the clergy, fellow politicians and gay-rights advocates.
There’s also the scrutiny of the national media and the fact
that it is an election year.

“In 20 years of lobbying, I’ve never seen such a
fluid issue,” said Arline Isaacson, co-leader of the
Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.
“There’s such a high degree of emotion in this building
and emotions are guiding legislators, who would rather be more
thoughtful about this.”

Supporters of the amendment said they were basing their position
on personal beliefs and public opinion. “Marriage has been a
tradition for 3,000 years,” said Rep. David Flynn, a
Democrat. “I don’t think you can change the laws of
nature and I don’t think waiting a couple of years to see how
people feel about it is the wrong thing to do.”

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