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Gay activists
challenge Massachusetts marriage ban proposal

Gay activists
challenge Massachusetts marriage ban proposal

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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.

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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