- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 15, 2004

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday filed emergency legislation that would allow him to ask the state’s highest court to stay its order legalizing same-sex “marriage” until state residents could vote on the issue.

“Fundamentally, I believe this is a decision which is so important it should be made by the people,” Mr. Romney said.

“I would like the right to be able to represent the people and my own office before the courts of Massachusetts,” he said, adding that if he is allowed to make his case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, he would choose retired Supreme Judicial Court Justice Joseph R. Nolan as his special counsel.

Justice Nolan, now a professor at Suffolk University Law School, said yesterday he saw “compelling legal reasons” for the high court to issue a stay. Massachusetts is slated to begin issuing “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples on May 17.

The Republican governor’s bill was introduced in the House yesterday and likely will be introduced in the Senate on Tuesday. Both chambers are led by Democrats.

House Speaker Thomas Finneran said he expected the joint Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on the bill.

Mr. Romney’s move was welcomed by advocates of traditional values.

“I’m delighted he is doing something,” said Philip Moran, a lawyer and Massachusetts chairman of Your Catholic Voice.

“We think the governor’s approach is viable. Of course, it has to clear two hurdles — the legislature, number one, and the Supreme Judicial Court, number two,” said Ray McNulty, spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage, which opposes homosexual “marriage.”

However, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), who won the Nov. 18 landmark case that legalized same-sex “marriage,” said Mr. Romney’s legislation was “a last-ditch and hopeless effort.”

“You don’t change the rules just because you lost — twice,” said Mary Bonauto, GLAD’s lead attorney for seven homosexual couples in the Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Mr. Romney said his actions were necessary because last month the legislature passed a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and permits civil unions for homosexual couples. A public vote to change the state constitution cannot be held until November 2006.

Staying the Goodridge decision until then would “preserve the right of the citizens to make this decision, rather than having it made for them by the court,” Mr. Romney said.

Last month’s approval of a constitutional marriage amendment “represents a significant change in circumstances in this case,” Justice Nolan said. “This change in circumstances cannot be ignored.”

Immediately after the amendment passed, Mr. Romney asked state Attorney General Thomas Reilly to request that the high court stay its decision, but Mr. Reilly, a Democrat, declined.

Mr. Reilly “also declined to appoint a special assistant attorney general to request the stay on my behalf,” Mr. Romney said.

“The only viable course left to me is to seek specific legislative authority giving me the power to appear before the Supreme Judicial Court with counsel of my own choosing to request a further stay of the entry of judgment in the Goodridge case,” he said.

Also yesterday, the state registrar, Stanley E. Nyberg, sent a letter to city and town clerks, saying that although Mr. Romney is seeking a stay, the government “continues to prepare for every contingency.” The letter invites clerks to sign up for upcoming “information sessions” on “marriage” licenses for same-sex couples.

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