Marriage suit to go before full court

BOSTON — A justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has referred the marriage amendment lawsuit to the general court and marriage backers have vowed to show their support at four rallies held throughout the state.

Four hours after the Nov. 30 hearing on the lawsuit, Justice Judith A. Cowin decided that it required more review. Further arguments are scheduled for Dec. 20. Cowin is one of four justices who voted in the majority in the 2003 Goodridge case that created same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

“Opponents had tried to force arguments to ‘the spring of 2007,’ so they would be well after the time for action had passed. They did not succeed,” said a Nov. 30 press release from, the ballot initiative committee behind the marriage amendment.

“Please keep this lawsuit and the upcoming arguments in your prayers,” the statement added.

Later the same day announced that four regional marriage rallies would be held at New Bedford City Hall on Dec. 9 at 10:30 a.m., at Barnstable County Court House on Dec. 9, at Springfield City Hall on Dec. 10 at 1:30 p.m. and at Worchester City Hall on Dec. 16 at 1:30 p.m.

Fliers distributed along with the statement urged voters to “take a stand for democracy” and “hold Beacon Hill accountable.”

“The Massachusetts Legislature arrogantly chose not to vote on the people’s amendment on marriage in violation of our state constitution,” the flier continued. “We demand that the state Legislature uphold their oath of office and vote on the marriage amendment.”

The lawsuit, filed by Gov. Mitt Romney and 10 other plaintiffs on Nov. 24, asks the state’s highest court to bypass the Legislature if elected representatives fail to vote on an amendment that would restore the traditional definition of marriage in Massachusetts.

The citizen-initiated amendment, which would limit marriages entered into after its enactment to the union of one man and one woman, needs the support of 25 percent of the Legislature in two consecutive sessions to move forward. On Nov. 9 lawmakers, for a second time, voted 109-87 to recess their constitutional convention without taking up the measure. They are scheduled to meet again on Jan. 2, the last day of the legislative session.

The suit affirms that the marriage amendment has already been approved by Secretary of State William Galvin and received 170,000 signatures, the most in state history. The amendment has “met the material requirements” of Article 48 of the state constitution, which provides the citizens with the right to initiate petitions. The article also states that the Legislature “shall” vote on those petitions, the lawsuit said.

“Over the past 24 years, the General Court has failed and refused to follow the mandate of Article 48 in five of the six initiative amendments proposed by citizens of the Commonwealth,” the lawsuit documents said. “In each instance, the Legislature had a legal duty to act, but failed or refused to do so.”

In the event that the Legislature does not vote on the amendment, the plaintiffs ask the court to “order and direct the defendant Galvin to include the terms thereof on the ballot at the 2008 statewide election for approval or rejection of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”