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Massachusetts advances same-sex marriage ban

Proposed amendment would provide for civil unions

Demonstrators hold competing rallies in front of the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston on Thursday morning.

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Same-sex marriages

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The Massachusetts Legislature advanced a constitutional amendment Thursday that would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

In a procedural motion, a joint session of both houses of the Legislature voted 129-69 to advance the amendment. The measure must still go through several additional votes that could still derail the measure.

The amendment would provide for civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

If approved, the amendment must still be approved by a second legislative session before being placed on a ballot. If the amendment is approved by voters, it would be added to the constitution.

The earliest date the measure could come up for a statewide vote would be November 2006.

The amendment would override a controversial decision by the state's Supreme Judicial Court that ordered the state to allow same-sex couples to marry on the grounds of equality.

Last month, lawmakers convened the first constitutional session but failed to reach a decision. They agreed to take up the issue a second time.

The first session was called a week after the state's highest court reiterated its previous ruling that ordered the state to grant same-sex marriage licenses by May 17.

There will be at least 31 months of court-sanctioned same-sex marriages before voters will have a chance to vote on the issue.

Earlier in the day, President Bush reaffirmed his support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would effectively ban same-sex marriage.

He told a group of evangelical Christians that he "will defend the sanctity of marriage against activist courts and local officials who want to redefine marriage."

"The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in cultures and by every religious faith," Bush told the National Association of Evangelicals Convention in Colorado via satellite from the White House.

"Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all. It is for that reason I support a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman."

After the ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the issue of same-sex marriage became a national issue.

Marriage licenses been granted to same sex couples in San Francisco, California; Portland, Oregon; New Paltz, New York; Asbury Park, New Jersey; and Sandoval County, New Mexico.

Bush first pledged his support after the mayor of San Francisco allowed the first same-sex marriages. There have been legal challenges to the marriages in each of the municipalities.

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