Massachusetts’s gay community can breathe a sigh of relief after the state’s legislature delayed a gay marriage debate until next January.

Anti-gay protesters had hoped that an amendment would be passed to ban same sex unions after similar results in Tennessee, Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Hundreds of protesters on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate gathered outside the Massachusetts statehouse yesterday while the debate raged on.

According to Reuters, protesters waved signs reading “Let The People Vote” while hay rights activists sang songs and chanted slogans.

This latest developments in the divisive state-by-state battle over same-sex unions came two days after seven states voted to limit marriage to a man and a woman in ballot initiatives, effectively banning gay marriage.

”It’s not like we’re looking for something extra,” Jeremy Spiegel said to the Associated Press as he stood on one side of Beacon Street holding a sign that read, ”No Discrimination in the Constitution.” He added: ”Same-sex couple just want the same rights as straight couples.”

Gay marriage supporters were working to kill the proposed amendment by forcing the constitutional convention to recess without taking action on the proposal.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Matt Foreman praised the lawmakers for abandoning the debate, “More than 8,000 same-sex couples are already legally married and fully recognized under the laws of the Commonwealth, and legislators today affirmed the dignity and equality of those families. Massachusetts can hopefully now move on to the people’s business.”

The debate in Massachusetts, the only US state where gay marriage is legal, also follows a month after the New Jersey Supreme Court guaranteed gay couples the same rights as married heterosexual but left it to state lawmakers to decide within six months what to call the unions.

According to Reuters, a poll this week showed most New Jersey voters support granting gay couples the benefits of marriage but do not want to call the unions “marriage.”

“I’m here because I’m against discrimination,” Nicole Roche, 20, a gay rights supporter, said.

The AP reports that gay marriage supporters have said outgoing Governor Mitt Romney, a gay marriage opponent, could try to force a vote by reconvening the convention.

The convention comes just two days after Democrat Deval Patrick, a supporter of gay marriage, won election to succeed Romney, who decided not to seek re-election as he considers running for president.

It will be reconsidered on January 2 2007.

87.

© 2006 GayWired; All Rights Reserved.