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Reports that Senate President Robert Travaglini, D-East Boston, may seek to further delay a Feb. 11 constitutional convention in which legislators are scheduled to vote on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman are, to put it mildly, bad news.

Back in December, the state Senate adopted an order asking the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) whether the creation of civil unions would satisfy the court’s mandate that same-sex couples be allowed to marry. Now, Travaglini is saying that it would be premature to vote on the marriage amendment before an answer on the civil unions issue comes from the SJC.

It begs the question: Why would it be premature? Whether the creation of civil unions satisfies the SJC or not, legislators should decide if they want the state constitution to define marriage as what it has always been: the union of a man and a woman.

Indeed, we would ask the senate president, what is the harm in initiating the process? What is it that intimidates legislators about going on the record with their position on marriage?

By seeking to avoid a vote on the issue for the second time in three months, the senate president and his entourage seem to be placing their own interests before those of their constituents.

This is an election year. The issue of marriage is already among the most important issues that will define the debate for the presidency of the United States. Our legislators will not be able to avoid its importance at the local level. If the vote on the constitutional amendment is avoided once again, legislators will be remembered for their failure to act decisively to defend marriage, the most basic institution in society.

On the other hand, an affirmative vote on the constitutional amendment would send the message to the SJC that the legislature is acting. It has the potential to initiate a whole new political scenario that could ultimately procur a stay in the 180 day time frame imposed by the court for the Legislature to act. Massachusetts would not be the first state to amend its constitution after a judicial decision called for a change in the definition of marriage. Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health was a 4-3 decision: It is conceivable that, faced with such an argument, at least one judge would switch sides to allow the legislative process to move forward. The people deserve to have their voice heard.

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