Approaching the anniversary of the nation's first same-sex marriages, Massachusetts's highest court on Monday is hearing a bid to stop same-sex couples from marrying until voters can weigh in.
A lawsuit filed by C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, claims the marriages interfere with voters' ability to participate in the debate on a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
In March 2004, two months before the supreme judicial court's landmark ruling took effect, the legislature approved a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. Lawmakers must pass the measure a second time, either this year or next, before it can reach the statewide ballot in November 2006. "What we're saying is that the dialogue, the robust debate that should be taking place, is being affected and shaped by the continuing marriages," said Doyle's attorney, Chester Darling.
Justice Roderick Ireland rejected Doyle's petition last year, but the full court is hearing his appeal.
Lawyers for Doyle, Atty. Gen. Thomas Reilly's office, and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders are scheduled to deliver oral arguments before the high court on Monday. A spokesman for Reilly, whose role is to defend the law, said the office does not comment on cases going before the court. GLAD argues that Doyle has failed to show exactly how issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples interferes with his ability to vote. "The right of gay and lesbian couples to marry poses absolutely no harm to Mr. Doyle, the Catholic Action League, or anybody else," said GLAD attorney Michele Granda.
Approximately 5,000 same-sex couples have married since the high court issued its 4-3 ruling in November 2003. The ruling took effect May 17, 2004.
Ireland, one of four judges who voted to legalize same-sex marriage, said couples shouldn't be denied the right to marry based on the mere possibility that voters will approve the amendment.
"Why should same-sex couples, who have been determined to have the right to marry under the Massachusetts constitution as it exists here and now, be required to wait to exercise that right simply because the petitioner and others hope...to be able to amend the constitution and take away that right at some point in the future?" he wrote last year in his ruling rejecting Doyle's petition.
Doyle, in court papers, said the supreme judicial court ruling created widespread confusion and "legal instability.... Activism and ideology must step aside to allow the citizens to have the final say on the issue of marriage, as the constitution commands." (AP)