Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the Nov. 19 rally on the Statehouse steps where he announced he would file suit to bypass the Legislature if it did not act on the marriage amendment. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
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BOSTON -- Gov. Mitt Romney filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Judicial Court Nov. 24 asking 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 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.
Among the 10 others joining the governor as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are State Rep. Phillip Travis, D-Rehoboth, former Boston mayor and ambassador to the Vatican Raymond L. Flynn, executive director of the Catholic Action League C.J. Doyle, and chairman of VoteOnMarriage.org Roberto Miranda.
The defendants named were Secretary of State William F. Galvin and Sen. Robert E. Travaglini, presiding officer of the Legislature’s joint session.
The suit affirms that the marriage amendment has already been approved by 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.”
Kris Mineau, president of VoteOnMarriage.org, applauded the governor’s action in a Nov. 24 statement.
“The Legislature has stalled the vote on these measures three times this year and had a regrettable history over the past decade of refusing to vote -- in direct violation of the constitution -- on a number of citizens initiative petitions,” he said.
The Legislature’s actions are a deliberate effort to kill the marriage amendment, he added.
In an interview with The Pilot Nov. 27, Massachusetts Catholic Conference Director Edward Saunders said that the bishops believe Gov. Romney has acted rightly. The Legislature is weakening the right of citizens to petition their government, he said.
“The inaction of the Legislature appears to be a means of using the process to circumvent the constitutional right of the people to petition,” he said. “The bishops continue to urge the members of the Catholic Church and all citizens to contact their legislators and let them know their feelings on their rights being taken away.”