Senate President William M. Bulger (D-South Boston) yesterday moved to protect a bill outlawing discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing, employment and credit from opponents attempting to delay its passage in the amendment process.
Bulger ruled that any senatorial amendments to the bill had to be submitted to the Senate clerk by 5 p.m. yesterday. Any late amendments would be considered delaying tactics and would be taken up without being printed in the Senate calendar, according to the ruling.
Gay and lesbian rights lobbyists applauded Bulger's decision, saying it limits new opposition to their cause and may speed passage of the bill, which the Massachusetts legislature has considered for the last 17 years.
"News has been good since the Senate went back into session last week," said Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. "Two amendments and three motions to delay the bill have already been defeated."
Isaacson said she believes that senators have tired of debating the bill, and that the ruling by Bulger, a staunch opponent of the bill in past years, expresses an overall desire to bring the bill to a vote.
David LaFontaine, lobbying director of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, said he thinks Bulger's ruling guaranteed the bill would pass the Senate, where supporters have a solid majority.
"The light at the end of the tunnel now shines dimly," Sen. Michael J. Barrett '70 (D-Cambridge) said of the ruling.
A Decent Chance
"Timing still rests in our opponents. Every day there will be debate, but the ruling definitely works in our favor," he said.
"We have a decent chance of passing the bill, if we keep constituent pressure on legislators," said a less optimistic Isaacson.
Sen. Edward P. Kirby (R-Whitman), who leads opposition to the bill, said he does not see Bulger's ruling as a major deterrent to his fight. He said, "I will keep pushing as long as I have a hope it will be defeated." He opposes the bill because he said it is the first step toward official recognition of what he calls "the gay and lesbian lifestyle."