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Gay-union foes vow to target legislators

Backers of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts said yesterday they will not attempt to place the issue on the ballot in 2010, confirming that the soonest the issue could go before voters is 2012.

But they vowed to campaign in 2008 against lawmakers who have blocked their efforts and said they would launch a new campaign in the future. On June 14, state lawmakers rejected a proposal to let voters decide whether same-sex marriage should be banned.

"We acknowledge that our support in the current Legislature is weak, but our support among the people is tremendous," said Kris Mineau, spokesman for VoteOnMarriage.org and president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, one of several groups that supported the constitutional amendment.

"This campaign is far from over, believe me," Mineau said. "Some of these legislators will go away, but we will not."

In 2004, the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4 to 3 to make Massachusetts the first state to allow same-sex marriage, touching off a heated battle involving thousands of people on both sides.

Gay-marriage opponents collected about 170,000 signatures on a petition to let voters decide whether marriage should be defined in the constitution as a union between a man and a woman.

The measure required the support of at least 50 lawmakers in two consecutive sessions to qualify for a statewide referendum. At a January constitutional convention, the proposed ban drew 62 votes. But last month, it was approved by 45 votes, five fewer than needed.

Mineau said his group decided not to file paperwork for a new signature drive by the Aug. 1 deadline because it would have to seek approval from the same Legislature.

The group vowed to publish voter guides and urge its members to unseat lawmakers who opposed the amendment, especially those who campaigned in favor of a gay-marriage ban, but changed their minds.

After the June vote, Secretary of State William F. Galvin said the issue could not be placed before voters again until at least 2012.

MassEquality, a coalition that supports gay marriage, said that the opponents' announcement yesterday signaled that support for the referendum was "weak and dwindling."

MassEquality campaign director Marc Solomon said he hoped that lawmakers would be able to focus on other issues, such as education and health care.

"The handwriting is on the wall," he said.

However, Solomon said same-sex- marriage proponents would also be out in full force in the 2008 elections.

"Over 200,000 members of MassEquality will be there to strongly support every legislator who voted in support of equality," he said.

"We've been there every step of the way."

Maria Sacchetti can be reached at msacchetti@globe.com.

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