People opposed to gay marriage gathered on Boston Common Sunday.

BOSTON (AP) – Hundreds of people opposed to same-sex marriage gathered on Boston Common on Sunday to show support for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

People holding banners that read “Let the people vote,” “Marriage, ancient, sacred,” and “Homosexuality is not normal,” were entertained by live music while waiting for speeches from some of the state’s most high profile anti-gay marriage advocates, including Sean P. O’Malley, bishop of the Roman Catholic Boston Archdiocese, and House Speaker Thomas Finneran.

Ed Zicko, 69, attended the rally with his friend, Maureen Cavanaugh, 59. They are both members of St. Patrick’s Catholic church in Natick. He said he came to the rally because marriage is a tradition going back thousands of years and “I think people should have the opportunity to vote on it.”

A smaller group of counter-protestors, some holding a banner that said “Shame on you Sean,” in reference to O’Malley, stood behind the main stage.

On Saturday, leaders of churches, synagogues and mosques around Massachusetts condemned the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling on gay marriage in a joint statement and urged a constitutional ban on such unions.

“All eyes are on Massachusetts; may they see our courage and resolve to safeguard the fundamental institution of marriage,” the statement concluded.

Signers included O’Malley; the Rev. David M. Midwood, president of Vision New England, an organization of evangelical churches; The Islamic Council of New England, which has about 25 centers and mosques; the 80-church Black Ministerial Alliance; 100 Christian Orthodox churches; and two Jewish leaders.

A poll released Sunday by Merrimack College’s Center for Public Opinion Research suggested that support for gay marriage may be slipping, and support for civil unions growing.

Of 501 adults interviewed by phone in late January and early February, 33 percent said the state should recognize gay marriages, compared to 37 percent in November. In the Sunday poll, 43 percent said the state should recognize civil unions, compared to 38 percent in November. The margin of error was 4.5 percentage points.

In November, the court ruled 4-3 that same-sex couples had a right under the state constitution to the benefits of marriage. The court gave the Legislature 180 days “to act as it deems appropriate.” After lawmakers asked the court to clarify their options, the court’s justices ruled this past week by the same 4-3 margin that only marriage was acceptable.

On Wednesday, the full House and Senate will meet for a joint constitutional convention to consider a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Massachusetts.

If a majority of lawmakers vote in favor of the amendment twice, it must be put to the voters as a ballot referendum in 2006.

AP-ES-02-08-04 1416EST

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