An estimated 120 gay marriage activists fanned out across Boston and the nearby suburbs of Brookline and Burlington to knock on doors and talk to potential voters, who ultimately must approve or reject any proposed constitutional amendment.
Dave Fleischer, training director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the goal Saturday was to identify supportive voters. Nothing beats a personal connection with voters, he said.
"It's building the base of support by taking the time to talk to voters one on one," Fleischer said. "It's the difference between winning and losing these elections."
Lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and, at the same time, legalize civil unions for same-sex couples.
Lawmakers have set aside three days for a "constitutional convention," starting Monday, to debate the existing amendment. If approved, it must be approved again by lawmakers during the 2005-06 session before it goes on the ballot in November 2006.
Gay marriage supporters canvassing the packed blocks of triple-deckers in the East Boston neighborhood Saturday found the personal touch wasn't always persuasive.
"I'm not interested in that (stuff). I'm 90 years old I'm going to worry about that?" one man said before slamming the door.
Another woman, who identified herself only as Dorothy, told a volunteer she didn't approve of same-sex marriage.
"Let them be what they want to be, but I don't approve of it," the woman told a reporter afterward.
But lifelong East Boston resident Victor Bono agreed to sign a form letter supporting the Supreme Judicial Court decision that legalized gay marriage, to be sent to state Sen. Robert Travaglini of East Boston.
"Being a person of heterosexual behavior, I don't understand (homosexual behavior)," said Bono, 50. "But I understand that these people have as much right to happy as anyone else."
Ron Crews, spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, discounted the neighborhood lobbying as a publicity stunt.
"It sounds like an effort to draw attention to themselves," Crews said. "We have viewed telephoning as a better use of our resources than door-to-door knocking at this point."
Crews said he's focused on defeating the current amendment because he also opposes civil unions. His organization wants two separate amendments, which would allow voters to vote up or down on both gay marriage and civil unions.
"Children do need a male and a female role model," he said. "Children do best when they have a mom and a dad in the home. Public policy is about what is ideal, what is the best."
Elsewhere on the same-sex marriage front, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was defeated Friday in the Kentucky House after Republicans staged a dramatic walkout hours into a contentious debate. In their absence, too few votes were available to pass the measure.
And in Minnesota, a Senate panel on Friday killed a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. Although the legislation passed earlier in the GOP-led House, its rejection was expected in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Tensions have been running high this week with rallies drawing more than 3,000 people from each side of the issue.
The walkout in Kentucky marked a strange turn of events because Republican lawmakers had been fighting to get the measure approved.
"It's the House Republicans that have killed this bill ... that have killed the amendment they talked so passionately about," said Democratic Rep. Rick Nelson.
The Republican leader, Rep. Jeff Hoover, accused the Democratic majority of an "arrogant abuse of power" by curtailing debate without consideration of GOP amendments to the bill.
Republican members then filed out of the House chamber and assembled for a rally on the Capitol steps with Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and a conservative group spearheading the push for a ban on same-sex marriages.
Democrats sat, seemingly stunned. Then some got angry.
"They took the coward's way out," said Rep. Gross Lindsay, his voice rising.
Speaker Jody Richards eventually proceeded with a roll-call vote. Sixty votes are required to approve a constitutional amendment. The roll call got to 55-10.
In theory, the House could reconsider its vote on Monday.
The source of the dispute was an effort by Democrats to entwine the gay marriage issue into a single bill with a second proposed amendment - an amendment to limit the judiciary's power to impose mandates on the General Assembly.
Republicans said lumping two constitutional amendments together was an act of sabotage and insisted it would never survive a court challenge.
Kentucky has had a law since 1996 prohibiting same-sex marriages, but proponents of the amendment said writing the prohibition into the state's Constitution was the only way to cement it.