The move to recess until Nov. 9 put off the decision on the politically charged issue until after the general election.
Senate President Robert Travaglini had said he intended to bring all 20 proposed amendments to a vote, but had warned lawmakers might not be able to get to every proposed amendment on Wednesday.
The House gallery erupted in applause from gay-rights activists after the vote to recess was announced.
Lawmakers, who voted on half the amendments before recessing, could have voted to extend their work into the night. Opponents of gay marriage had been optimistic that they had the votes to move a step closer to putting the amendment on the 2008 ballot, and gay-rights supporters were happy to get a reprieve.
"We now have four more months to show legislators how well marriage equality is working in Massachusetts. We hope they will see that Massachusetts is ready to move on," said Marc Solomon, campaign director for gay rights group MassEquality.
If approved, the gay marriage amendment would block future gay marriages in Massachusetts. More than 8,000 same-sex couples have taken vows since gay marriages began in May 2004.
To get on the ballot, the question must twice win the backing of 25 percent, or 50, of the state's 200 lawmakers: once during the current session and again during the session starting in January.
"I think this is an issue for the people to decide," said Jonathan Gal, 39, of Lexington, wearing a sticker that read "Support One Man, One Woman." "I don't like the way this is being imposed on us by a small minority, the courts and the Legislature."
Across the street, supporters of same-sex unions cast the issue as one of civil rights.
"When does civil rights get put on the ballot for everyone to vote on?" said Jim Singletary, 44, of Salem, who last year married his longtime partner, Jim Maynard.
"This is for fairness for my family," Maynard said.
For supporters of gay marriage nationwide, this proposed amendment in Massachusetts couldn't come at a worse time. Much of that momentum first generated a few years ago now seems headed the other way, reports CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts.
Nineteen states have already adopted a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Six more may have it on their ballots this November.
Hundreds of people on both sides of the issue rallied outside the Statehouse on Wednesday as lawmakers made their way through a stack of proposed constitutional amendments dealing with everything from health care to redistricting.
The debate came less than a week after New York's highest court rejected same-sex couples' bid to win marriage rights and Georgia's high court reinstated that state's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Gay marriage opponents in Massachusetts did get a boost Monday from the Supreme Judicial Court, the same court that handed down the historic ruling legalizing gay marriage.
The court ruled that the proposed amendment could go forward, provided it clear the remaining legislative hurdles. Gay marriage supporters had sued to block the question.