Proposed amendment would ban future gay marriages
BOSTON Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage asked the state’s highest court to push lawmakers to vote on whether the measure should be put on the ballot.
John Hanify, an attorney for Gov. Mitt Romney, said supporters are asking the Supreme Judicial Court to clarify what the obligations of legislators are under a state constitutional provision that establishes the rights of citizens to petition for a constitutional amendment.
Romney and others sued in November after lawmakers postponed action on the proposed ballot question until Jan. 2, the last day of the legislative session a move both sides said likely would kill the measure.
The proposed amendment would define marriage in Massachusetts as the union of a man and a woman and ban future gay marriages but leave intact those unions made since 2004, when Massachusetts became the only state to allow gay marriages.
Supporters of the proposed amendment say voters should decide how marriage should be defined. Backers of gay marriage say civil rights should never be put to a popular vote.
Hanify said that after receiving clarification on their duties from the high court, the Senate president should direct the body of lawmakers to vote.
“We’re not asking you to tell the Legislature how to do its business. We’re asking you only to declare what the constitution requires them to do,” said Hanify, who asked justices to rule by Jan. 2. The justices took the case under advisement. But Assistant Attorney General Peter Sacks, representing the Senate president, urged the court not to get involved in the issue, citing the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches. Voters who are dissatisfied with legislators who failed to vote on the amendment can choose to vote those lawmakers out of office.
“Their recourse is at the ballot box,” he said.
Romney and other opponents of gay marriage are asking the court to force lawmakers to take a vote on the proposed amendment or, if they fail to act, to order Secretary of State William Galvin to put the question on the 2008 ballot anyway.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, December 22, 2006.