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New plan proposed to halt gay marriages

Opponents of gay marriage filed a ballot initiative with the state yesterday that, if passed, would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriages, an expected move that casts doubt on the future of another ballot initiative pending in the Legislature.

The Massachusetts Family Institute submitted the citizen's petition a day before today's deadline. Raymond L. Flynn, a former mayor of Boston, is on the list of 30 people who signed the petition.

The initiative would define marriage as between a man and a woman. It is part of an effort to overturn the legalization of same-sex marriage, which the Supreme Judicial Court legalized in 2003.

After the ruling, lawmakers reached a compromise ban, which would allow Vermont-style civil unions. That version was passed in one joint session of the Legislature, called the Constitutional Convention. It must be approved a second time.

In June, the Massachusetts Family Institute and a coalition of other groups opposed to gay marriage said they were launching the effort to amend the state constitution, and pledged to seek the defeat of the earlier version.

Governor Mitt Romney withdrew his support for the compromise ban and threw his support behind the new plan, saying the pending constitutional amendment had ''muddied" the issue of gay marriage by legalizing civil unions.

After the new initiative is approved by Attorney General Thomas Reilly's office, proponents must gather about 66,000 signatures. Then the measure must be approved by two Constitutional Conventions in a row, before it would be put to voters in 2008.

Since the first gay weddings on May 17, 2004, thousands of same-sex couples have married.

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