The Massachusetts State House held a six hour hearing on gay marriage yesterday as supporters and opponents came together to argue their case for a 2008 vote on a ban on same sex unions.

Supporters of the ban are standing by the argument that legalised gay marriage undermines the traditional family structure, and opponents are pushing for further equality.

Robert L. Beal, director of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, told the committee, ”I believe that if the Legislature does not vote the amendment down, our state will be subjected to an ugly, protracted fight that will adversely affect the civic and business environment.

But Governor Mitt Romney, known for his anti-gay views, said in a letter to the committee, ”The importance of marriage between mothers and fathers, wives and husbands is so great that we must take whatever action is needed to preserve it, for the sake of our children and our children’s children.”

Legislators will vote on whether to move forward with the proposal on May 10 2006.

The proposal would need 50 approvals from the state’s 200 lawmakers to go to a public vote.

An amendment would overturn the 2003 ruling which made Massachusetts the only US state to allow gay marriage.