A group of Massachusetts lawmakers is trying to ban marriages between gay couples with an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution, a move that would trump any ruling by the state's high court allowing the unions. Massachusetts's supreme judicial court agreed Tuesday to consider an appeal of a ruling that the legislature, not the courts, should decide whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, a Democrat, said Wednesday that if the court finds that gay couples have a legal right to marry, he would support an amendment specifically defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman. "I have voted, and would continue to vote, to restrict marriage to one man and one woman," Finneran told The Boston Globe. "The traditional definition and understanding of marriage is the definition that I'm most comfortable with."
Democratic representative Philip Travis and 13 cosponsors filed a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would ban marriages for same-sex couples. A similar amendment was killed by the legislature last year through a procedural maneuver that avoided a vote. Travis said final decisions about marriage should be made through the democratic process and promised to bring his amendment up for a vote before the end of the legislative session, which runs through 2004. "The [state] supreme court is trying to rule on something that's up to the legislature and up to the people," he said.
State constitutional amendments must advance through two consecutive legislative sessions and then must be approved by voters in a statewide election. Gay rights groups have vowed to fight the amendment, which Gary Buseck, executive director of Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said seems designed to influence the pending case before the state's high court.