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High court refuses to hear challenge to Massachusetts marriage

High court refuses to hear challenge to Massachusetts marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped a dispute over gay marriages, rejecting a challenge to the nation's only law sanctioning such unions. Conservative groups had asked justices to overturn the year-old decision by the Massachusetts supreme judicial court legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. They declined, without comment. In the past year at least 3,000 gay and lesbian couples have wed in Massachusetts, although voters may have a chance in 2006 to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage and allow civil unions. Critics of the November 2003 ruling by the highest court in Massachusetts argue that it violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of a republican form of government in each state. They lost their first round in the first U.S. circuit court of appeals in Boston. Their attorney, Mathew Staver, said in a U.S. Supreme Court filing that the Constitution should "protect the citizens of Massachusetts from their own state supreme court's usurpation of power." Federal courts, he said, should defend people's right "to live in a republican form of government free from tyranny, whether that comes at the barrel of a gun or by the decree of a court." Merita Hopkins, a city attorney in Boston, had told justices in court papers that the people who filed the suit have not shown they suffered an injury and could not bring a challenge to the Supreme Court. "Deeply felt interest in the outcome of a case does not constitute an actual injury," she said. Massachusetts attorney general Tom Reilly told justices that voters can overrule the supreme judicial court by adopting a constitutional amendment. The lawsuit was filed by the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, a conservative law group, on behalf of Robert Largess, the vice president of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, and 11 state lawmakers. "I think this decision underscores the need for Supreme Court justices who will restrain the activist impulses of ideologues on the bench," said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League. "This was one skirmish, one battle in a much larger issue." The Liberty Counsel had persuaded the Supreme Court in October to consider another high-profile issue, the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on government property. The court agreed to look at that church-state issue before Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He is working from home while receiving chemotherapy and radiation and will miss court sessions for the next two weeks. State legislators will decide whether to put the issue before Massachusetts voters in November 2006. Voters in 11 states on November 2 approved constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. President Bush has promised to make a federal anti-gay marriage amendment a priority of his second term. The nation's high court had stayed out of the Massachusetts fight on a previous occasion. Last May justices refused to intervene and block clerks from issuing the first marriage licenses. Gary Buseck, legal director of the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which brought the case that led to legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, said Monday's decision was expected. "This was a long shot taken by our opponents in the waning hours [before] the actual legal performing of marriages of gay couples on May 17," he said.

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