BOSTON (AP) – After 10 hours of heated discourse, an outburst erupted in the midst of the Massachusetts Legislature’s debate of a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage. Dozens of lawmakers, shouting “We want a vote!” walked out of the House chamber Thursday night, in protest of an apparent filibuster by pro-gay rights lawmakers.

The outburst came in the middle of a prolonged debate on a bipartisan version of a constitutional ban, which would legalized civil unions while simultaneously stripping gay couples of their court-granted right to marriage.

“Anarchy. Anarchy,” said Sen. Jarrett Barrios, D-Cambridge, an openly gay lawmaker and one of the most visible critics of the constitutional ban.

The lawmakers who had walked out returned a few minutes later, but their earlier exit reflected the deep frustrations of a Legislature that has been grappling with one of the most watched social issues in the nation since the state’s highest court ordered gay marriages to begin in mid-May.

The constitutional convention was soon after recessed, and was expected to reconvene before midnight.

Meanqhile, in San Francisco, in an open challenge to California law, city authorities officiated at at least eight same-sex weddings Thursday and issued about a dozen more marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The act of civil disobedience was coordinated by Mayor Gavin Newsom and top officials in the city considered the capital of gay America.

Longtime lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon, 79, and Del Martin, 83, were hurriedly issued a married license and were wedded just before noon.

by City Assessor Mabel Teng in a closed-door civil ceremony at City Hall, mayor’s spokesman Peter Ragone said. The two have been a couple for 51 years.

By early afternoon, city officials had married at least seven other gay couples. The vows in one of those weddings, performed before TV cameras, replaced the traditional phrasing that couples take each other as “husband and wife” with “spouse for life.”

City Hall was crowded with jubilant same-sex couples. About 30 couples crowded outside the San Francisco County Clerk’s office awaiting licenses, many arm in arm. One of the women, wearing a white wedding dress and veil, encouraged couples to shout out their names and how long they had been together.

It remains unclear what practical value the marriage licenses will have, but the symbolism was clear on a day when lawmakers in Massachusetts debated for a second day a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

A conservative group called the Campaign for California Families characterized Thursday’s marriages as a sham.

“These unlawful certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on. The renegade mayor of San Francisco has no authority to do this,” said Randy Thomasson, the group’s executive director. “This is nothing more than a publicity stunt that disrespects our state law and system of government itself.”

San Francisco officials insisted the licenses were legally binding.

Thursday’s marriages violate a ballot measure California voters approved in 2000 that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

No state legally sanctions gay marriage, though Massachusetts could become the first this spring. The Massachusetts high court has ruled that gays are entitled under the state constitution to marry. That led to the debate over a constitutional amendment.

The gay marriages in San Francisco were timed by city officials to outmaneuver the conservative group. The group had planned to go to court on Friday to stop mayor’s announced plans to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. But the city acted first.

Lyon and Martin said after their brief ceremony that they were going home to rest and did not plan anything to celebrate. The couple seemed proud of what they had done.

“Why shouldn’t we” be able to marry? Lyon asked.

The mayor was not present at the morning ceremony but later presented Martin and Lyon with a signed copy of the state constitution with sections related to equal rights highlighted.

The two official witnesses were Kate Kendell, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and former city official Roberta Achtenberg.

The conservative group fighting gay marriage has also sued, so far unsuccessfully, to block the state’s domestic partner law, which then-Gov. Gray Davis signed in September.

That law expands the rights of gay couples in areas ranging from health coverage and parental status to property ownership and funeral arrangements.

AP-ES-02-12-04 1738EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.