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Conservative groups in Massachusetts asked the state's high court Monday to delay the landmark ruling allowing gay marriage, saying residents and legislators should be able to vote on the issue. A coalition that includes the Massachusetts Catholic Conference and the Massachusetts Family Institute made the appeal in one of several legal briefs filed with the supreme judicial court. The court ruled in November that same-sex couples have a right to marry in the state, a ruling applauded as a civil rights milestone by gay activists. The court gave the legislature six months to pass a law that complies with the ruling. The next month, the senate asked the court for guidance on whether proposed legislation legalizing civil unions--just shy of full-fledged marriage--would satisfy the ruling giving gay couples all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of marriage without the title. The conservative groups argued that the civil unions bill "would be superior to requiring the legislature to include same-sex unions in civil marriage" but said the 180-day time frame mandated by the court was unrealistic. One of several options the court should consider, the coalition said, is to "issue a stay of judgment until the legislature and the people democratically decide what course to take with respect to marriage." A constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman is to be considered by a joint session of the house and senate on February 11 and could be placed on the ballot for voters' consideration no sooner than November 2006. The Massachusetts Bar Association said in a brief of its own that the civil union bill violates the court's ruling because it relegates same-gender couples to "something less than marriage."