During a joint session on Thursday, lawmakers in the U.S. state of Massachusetts voted 151 to 45 against a measure that would have placed a discriminatory, anti-same-sex marriage constitutional amendment before voters in 2008.

The proposed amendment threatened to undo the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s historic 2003 decision making the state the first in the U.S. to recognise marriage equality for same-sex couples.

“This proposed constitutional amendment was a misguided attempt to put peoples’ equal rights to a vote. We are grateful that the overwhelming majority of Massachusetts legislators rejected this divisive measure,” said Joe Solmonese, president of gay activist organisation, Human Rights Campaign.

“For the past three years, loving and committed same-sex couples have enjoyed the equal right to marry in Massachusetts. Despite the doomsday predictions of opponents of equality, the sky hasn’t fallen, and no one’s marriage has been threatened. The legislature’s action ensures that they will continue to enjoy those equal rights and protections,” he added.

The Massachusetts constitution requires that at least one-fourth of lawmakers approve any proposed constitutional amendment that has been introduced by petition before it goes to voters.

Opponents of same-sex marriage gathered enough signatures to place the proposed amendment, which sough to define marriage as only being possible between a man and a woman, before the legislature. If 50 or more legislators had voted in favor of the proposed amendment, it would have been placed before the voters in a referendum in 2008.

“Today, the legislature made a powerful statement that it’s wrong to vote on rights,” said Marc Solomon, Campaign Director for MassEquality, a coalition of local and national organisations defending equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts.

The vote comes as other states are considering providing equal marriage rights to same-sex couples under state law. Earlier this month, the California state Assembly passed a bill that would provide same-sex couples with the equal right to marry under state law. Marriage equality legislation has also been introduced and is still pending in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

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