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Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick, who will be the nation’s only black governor after he’s inaugurated on Thursday, got a running start Tuesday in a fight over a proposed ban on gay marriage that may not be settled until that state’s 2008 election.

A total of 62 Massachusetts’ lawmakers voted to advance a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Under Massachusetts law, the measure must be approved by at least 25 percent of the lawmakers in two constitutional conventions. That means if at least 50 legislators approve the ban in the 2007 constitutional convention, voters in that state could vote in 2008 whether to overturn legal gay marriage. Legal gay marriage began in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004.

Patrick, a civil rights attorney, showed himself to be a major force in the debate on Tuesday, and advocates say they will look to him for leadership on the issue.

“Marriage equality is with us and has been with us for a couple of years, and the sky has not fallen and western civilization has not crumbled,” Patrick said in article published in the Boston Herald. He vowed to continue to fight the efforts to ban gay marriage in Massachusetts.

Outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney opposes gay marriage and has worked to secure support on the proposed ban from that state’s conservative Republican wing.

Gary Daffin, co-chairman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said seven of the people who voted Tuesday to advance an amendment banning gay marriage will not return to the legislative session.

“Tuesday was their last day,” Daffin told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “They are being replaced by representatives who are supportive of gay marriage. We’ll have to work to reduce the number of supporters of the ban.”

It looks like the issue of marriage for gays and lesbians, yet again will become front and center for America and Black America as this issue is addressed in several key states including California which has re-introduced a bill in support of gay marriage.