Massachusetts’ lawmakers voted yesterday to delay a debate on gay marriage until after the state’s general election in November.

The decision to postpone the vote came after lawmakers debated for four hours on other agenda items at the Constitutional Convention.

The Boston Globe reports that the delay is likely to cheer advocates of gay marriage, who believe that the more time they have to lobby lawmakers the better chance they have to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex weddings.

But the delay drew a condemnation from sponsors of the amendment, who accused the legislative leadership of trying to insulate lawmakers from a tough vote before the November election.

“This move shows the flagrant disregard for the will of the people by Senate President [Robert] Travaglini and every legislator who voted to recess the convention until November,” said Kris Mineau, president, Massachusetts Family Institute and spokesman for the ballot coalition, VoteOnMarriage.org, to The Globe.

According to The Associated Press, hundreds of advocates on both sides of the gay marriage issue rallied at the State House, carrying signs and chanting.

“I think this is an issue for the people to decide,” said Jonathan Gal, 39, of Lexington, to the AP. “I don’t like the way this is being imposed on us by a small minority – the courts and the Legislature.” Across the street, supporters of same-sex unions cast the issue as one of civil rights.

“When does civil rights get put on the ballot for everyone to vote on?” said Jim Singletary, 44, the AP reports.

Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign, said that Massachusetts is a “beacon of equality and fairness in our country.”

“To replace that beacon with the darkness of discrimination would be a travesty,”

Mr Solmonese’s said: “We hope when the Legislature reconvenes, it will spend its valuable time debating the pressing needs of the Commonwealth and not eliminate marriage equality which has strengthened families and communities and harmed no one.”

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