Massachusetts high court sends gay marriage question back to lawmakers

BY Advocate.com Editors

December 24 2002 1:00 AM ET

Massachusetts acting governor Jane Swift said Monday she has no plans to break a legislative stalemate over the fate of three proposed constitutional amendments, including one that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

On Friday the state supreme judicial court ruled that the legislature had not taken final action on the three questions as required when it adjourned a joint Constitutional Convention in July.

But the court refused to say whether Swift was required to call the legislature back into session. The court indicated Swift might be able to avoid that call if she decides it would be futile. Swift said Monday that she is still waiting to see if the legislature will voluntarily come back into session.

Swift said her decision hinges on whether she decides that calling the lawmakers back into the joint session would be a waste of time. Swift opposes the anti-gay marriage question.
"That's why we asked the question of the [supreme judicial court], that if [lawmakers] are not going to come back anyway, isn't it futile for me to ask them to come back only for them to say no?" Swift said. "I think one good indication of their willingness to come back is whether or not they do it voluntarily. One could assume that if they don't do it voluntarily, they may not do it if I ask them."

Lawmakers avoided a controversial vote on the gay marriage ban in July, adjourning a joint legislative session in a unanimous roll call vote. In doing so, lawmakers hoped to kill the proposed ban, which cannot appear on the ballot unless it clears two successive legislatures.

If no action is taken by the legislature to consider the question before the end of this year, proponents of the ban must begin the signature-gathering process again and once again lobby legislators to consider the matter. If it were approved by the voters, the question would add an amendment to the constitution, which reads in part, "Only the union of one
man and one woman shall be...recognized as a marriage in Massachusetts.''

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