Senate president may hold up vote on same-sex marriage ban

BY admin

January 14 2004 1:00 AM ET

The leader of the Massachusetts state senate says he will postpone next month's vote on a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages if the supreme judicial court has not ruled by then on the constitutionality of civil unions. The senate passed a civil unions bill last month and asked the state's high court to determine whether it meets the conditions of the court's November ruling
that said gays and lesbians have the right to marry.

Senate president Robert E. Travaglini will delay the February 11 debate on the proposed state constitutional amendment if the court has not ruled on the civil unions bill, Travaglini spokeswoman Ann Dufresne said. "The whole point of the advisory opinion is to seek guidance on the court's ruling, so it only makes sense not to preempt the court," Dufresne said.

The law school deans of Yale and Stanford joined 88 other professors from the country's most prestigious legal institutions Monday in arguing that only full implementation of gay marriage will meet state constitutional muster. The professors, led by Harvard Law School constitutional expert Laurence Tribe, were one of several groups filing briefs with the supreme judicial court. At least 10 groups weighed in on whether civil union legislation under consideration by the state senate would satisfy the court's ruling in November that gay couples are entitled to the benefits of marriage.

"Any equivocation by the justices...not only would hurt the gay men and lesbians who are counting on the supreme judicial court to stick by what it said in November about same-sex marriage but also would hurt the court itself, by undermining its hard-earned reputation for candor and integrity," said Tribe, one of 18 Harvard Law professors who signed the brief.

A coalition of conservative groups, including the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, filed a brief denouncing the gay marriage decision. It called on the court to delay implementation of the decision until lawmakers and citizens have had an opportunity to vote on the issue. A constitutional amendment that will be considered by a joint session of the house and senate on February 11 would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The soonest it could go to the voters for approval would be November 2006. Under the high court decision as it currently stands, the nation's first gay marriages could take place in Massachusetts on May 17.

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