BOSTON (AP) _ People on both sides of the debate about same-sex marriage made a last-minute push to sway lawmakers Wednesday, a day before the Legislature planned to decide whether to ask voters to amend the state constitution to ban the practice.
Supporters of gay marriage appeared to be gaining ground, with a handful of lawmakers who previously supported the constitutional amendment saying they were rethinking their votes. Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2003.
To reach voters in a statewide ballot in 2008, the proposal needs the backing of a quarter of the state's legislators _ 50 lawmakers _ in two successive sittings of the Legislature. It won approval in January on the final day of the last session.
Supporters and opponents agree that eight lawmakers who supported the measure then must change their votes Thursday to keep the question from going to voters.
Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, worked into the evening trying to persuade lawmakers to kill the measure.
``We're working right down to the wire,'' he said. ``I'm not going to take anything for granted.''
In a development that could affect the vote margin, state Rep. Anthony J. Verga took a tumble at the Statehouse on Wednesday and was taken to a hospital, where he was undergoing tests. He previously voted for the amendment, and his office did not answer calls seeking to find out whether he would be able to vote Thursday or whether he had reconsidered his position.
Proponents of marriage for same-sex couples fear Massachusetts voters, if given the chance, would reverse the landmark court decision that allowed the practice. Several other states offer domestic partnerships or civil unions to same-sex couples, but Massachusetts is the only state where same-sex marriage is legal.
At least one lawmaker who previously voted for the amendment said he was unsure now, after meeting privately with Patrick.
``I'm going to take one more night to sleep on it,'' said Sen. Robert L. Hedlund, a Republican. ``Personally, I'm not threatened by same-sex marriage ... but obviously there's a lot of people that feel strongly based on the volume of input I've had.''
Supporters of the amendment were also lobbying intensely. Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said the group is confident the measure will pass.
``Every indication we have so far is that our votes are holding firm,'' he said. ``These are people of principle who believe in the people's right to define marriage.''
Rep. Sean Curran, a Democrat, voted in favor of the amendment in January and said he has been bombarded with calls urging him to hold firm.
``I'm not switching,'' he said. ``I'm going to keep the position I'm sticking to.''