- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Lawyers representing 11 Massachusetts lawmakers and a traditional-values group leader yesterday asked a federal judge in Boston to temporarily block the state from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro said he would issue a ruling late today or tomorrow.

Matthew Staver, president and general counsel of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, said the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overstepped its jurisdiction in its Nov. 18 Goodridge et al. vs. Department of Public Health ruling, which legalized same-sex “marriages” in the state.

In that ruling, the high court said Massachusetts officials were violating same-sex couples’ constitutional rights by denying them marriage licenses. Under its “reformulation” of marriage, the court ordered the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to adult couples, regardless of gender, as of May 17.

Conservative lawyers yesterday argued that under the Massachusetts Constitution, the executive and legislative branches have jurisdiction over marriage law and that the high court usurped its powers.

The federal court can intervene in this case, the lawyers argued, because it has the authority under the U.S. Constitution’s “guarantee clause” to ensure that states respect this “separation of powers.”

Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General Peter Sacks, arguing on behalf of the Massachusetts high court, said the decision was based on an interpretation of the state constitution and was within the high court’s purview.

“These are pure questions of state law,” Mr. Sacks said. “There is no jurisdictional basis for this [federal] court to intervene or second-guess the [state court’s] ruling on a core matter of state law.”

Attorneys with Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, who won the Goodridge case, also defended the high court’s authority.

Lawyers said yesterday it was likely that no matter which side wins in District Court, the case will be appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Mr. Staver and conservatives filed their case on Monday on behalf of Catholic Action League official Robert Largess. Late Tuesday, a Massachusetts state senator and 10 state representatives joined the case as plaintiffs.

Meanwhile, in Superior Court in Suffolk County, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against the Goodridge case brought by the Arizona-based conservative group Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and businessman Thomas Shields.

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