BOSTON Gay marriage supporters filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Attorney General Tom Reilly seeking to block a proposed ballot question that would amend the state constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage.
The lawsuit filed by Gay and Les-bian Advocates and Defenders challenges a September ruling by Reilly that said the repeal effort is legal.
That ruling allowed backers of the proposed amendment to begin petitioning, and they collected more than 124,000 certified signatures well above the 65,000 needed.
Gary Buseck, GLAD’s legal director, said the state Constitution specifically bars any citizen-initiated amendment that “relates to the reversal of a judicial decision.” Only the Legislature can propose that kind of amendment, he said.
Reilly should have blocked the question from going forward on those grounds, Buseck said.
“This proposed anti-gay, anti-marriage amendment is meant squarely and solely to reverse the decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that ended marriage discrimination in Massachusetts,” Buseck said, referring to the landmark 2003 court decision that made Massachusetts the first state to extend marriage to gay and lesbian couples.
The lawsuit also seeks to block Secretary of State William Galvin from taking any action to certify the question.
A spokesman for Reilly defended the decision, saying it was based on Reilly’s reading of the state’s Constitution.
“While the attorney general does not personally support the proposal, we are confident that letting this question proceed was the right decision,” said David Guarino, Reilly’s spokesman. “The attorney general’s decision to certify this question for the ballot was based solely on the Constitution. This proposal isn’t a reversal of a judicial decision but an effort to change the constitution going forward.”
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, one of the prime backers of the amendment, said he had been expecting the lawsuit. He believes the appeals court will reject Buseck’s argument.
“We feel confident that they will not succeed,” Mineau said.
Buseck said Mineau’s and Reilly’s reading of the Constitution is too narrow. He said the prohibition on citizen-based initiatives overturning a court ruling is not limited just to the specific judgment, but to the larger issue in this case the right of same sex couples to marry.
“The Constitution says “‘judicial decision’ and the words “‘judicial decision’ are broader than judgment,” he said.
The proposed amendment states: “When recognizing marriages entered into after the adoption of this amendment by the people, the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall define marriage only as the union of one man and one woman.”
The proposed constitutional amendment question still faces hurdles.
Before it can make it onto the 2008 ballot, supporters need to win the backing of 50 lawmakers 25 percent of the 200-member Legislature in two successive legislative sessions. A new Legislature takes office in January 2007.
The GLAD lawsuit was filed with a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday and is expected to be passed along to the full court.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of January 6, 2006.