Gay activists challenge Massachusetts marriage ban proposal

Gay rights activists in Massachusetts filed a lawsuit Tuesday to block a proposed ballot question that would amend the state constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage.

BY

January 04 2006 12:00 AM ET

Gay rights
activists in Massachusetts filed a lawsuit Tuesday against
state attorney general Tom Reilly, seeking to block a
proposed ballot question that would amend the state
constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. The lawsuit,
filed by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders,
challenges a September ruling by Reilly that the repeal
effort is legal.

That ruling
allowed backers of the proposed amendment to begin
petitioning, and they collected more than 124,000 certified
signatures—well above the 65,000 needed to get the
measure on the 2008 ballot. Gary Buseck, GLAD's legal
director, said the state constitution specifically
bans any citizen-initiated amendment that "relates to
the reversal of a judicial decision." Only the legislature
can propose that kind of amendment, he said.

Reilly should
have blocked the question from going forward on those
grounds, Buseck said. "This proposed antigay, antimarriage
amendment is meant squarely and solely to reverse the
decision in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health that
ended marriage discrimination in Massachusetts,"
Buseck said, referring to the landmark 2003 court
decision that made Massachusetts the first state to
recognize same-sex marriage.

A spokesman for
Reilly, a Democratic candidate for governor, did not
immediately return a call seeking comment. The lawsuit also
seeks to block Secretary of State William Galvin from
taking any action to certify the question.

Kris Mineau,
president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, one of the
prime backers of the amendment, said he had been expecting
the lawsuit but is confident the court will reject the
argument. "We feel confident that they will not
succeed," Mineau said. He said the proposed amendment
does not specifically seek to reverse the supreme
judicial court's decision in the Goodridge
case, instead seeking to clarify the legal definition of
marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The
proposed amendment states, "When recognizing marriages
entered into after the adoption of this amendment by
the people, the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions
shall define marriage only as the union of one man and
one woman."

The question
still faces additional hurdles. Before it can make it onto
the 2008 ballot, supporters need to win the backing of 50
lawmakers—25% of the 200-member
legislature—in two successive legislative sessions. A
new legislature takes office in January 2007. The GLAD
lawsuit was filed with a single justice of the supreme
judicial court on Tuesday and could be passed along to
the full court. (AP)

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