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Conservative groups plan end to Mass. marriages in federal court

Conservative groups plan end to Mass. marriages in federal court

A coalition of conservative groups and lawmakers is asking a federal appeals court to stop gay marriages in Massachusetts, saying the state's highest court overstepped its bounds by changing the traditional meaning of marriage when it cleared the way for same-sex couples to wed. Gay marriages began in Massachusetts on May 17 after the supreme judicial court ruled it was unconstitutional to deny licenses to same-sex couples. The groups are urging the first U.S. circuit court of appeals to put a stop to the weddings, arguing that only elected lawmakers--not judges--have a right to define marriage and that any change in that traditional definition should be left to a vote of the people. In March, lawmakers narrowly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages and establish civil unions. However, that proposal must survive another vote of the legislature and won't go before voters until November 2006 at the earliest. If gay marriages continue--only to be outlawed then--there will be more legal challenges and complicated questions of child custody, benefits, tax filings, and other marriage-related issues, said Mat Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Orlando, Fla.-based law group. "Allowing these marriages to continue causes further marital mayhem, not only in Massachusetts but across the country," said Staver, who was to argue the case in federal court. The state attorney general's office, representing the main defendants--the supreme judicial court and its justices--maintains the case does not belong in federal court because the supreme judicial court made its ruling based on an interpretation of the state constitution.

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