The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court yesterday upheld the legitimacy of a proposed constitutional amendment to end same-sex “marriage,” saying “no error” was made in the measure’s certification.
More than 170,000 signatures were gathered in favor of the amendment, which says, “When recognizing marriage entered after the adoption of this amendment by the people, the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman.”
If passed, the amendment would end same-sex “marriage” in Massachusetts, but not affect about 8,000 same-sex couples who have “married” since 2004.
The unanimous decision comes as Massachusetts lawmakers are scheduled to gather tomorrow for their first vote on the amendment. Fifty out of 200 lawmakers must approve the amendment in successive sessions for it to go before the voters, possibly in 2008.
Yesterday’s ruling is a setback for homosexual rights groups, who hoped the high court would derail the effort by saying state Attorney General Tom Reilly incorrectly certified the amendment.
Instead, amendment supporters were cheering the ruling. “As we have said all along, VoteOnMarriage.org had complete confidence in the integrity and constitutionality of the amendment,” said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.
The court’s ruling clears the way for lawmakers to do “their constitutional duty” and vote on the amendment, Mr. Mineau said, adding that he believes his side has “comfortably in excess of 50 votes.”
Homosexual rights groups urged lawmakers to reject the amendment.
“We aimed to stop the ballot measure with this lawsuit, but the legislature can still do the right thing and allow marriage equality to continue in Massachusetts,” said Lee Swislow, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD).
In their lawsuit, GLAD lawyers argued that citizen-initiated amendments cannot “reverse” a judicial ruling. Since the proposed amendment would essentially overrule the high court’s Goodridge decision, which allowed same-sex “marriage,” the amendment was illegal, they said.
The high court disagreed, saying citizens aren’t barred from trying to amend the constitution even if their amendment changes a law and “overrules” a prior court decision. “There was no error in the Attorney General’s certification of the petition,” the high court said in its unanimous ruling.
Also yesterday, the California Court of Appeal heard arguments in a consolidated lawsuit filed by homosexuals seeking the right to “marry.” The six cases spring from the same-sex “marriage” spree conducted by San Francisco officials in early 2004. The 4,100 same-sex “marriages” were later voided by the California Supreme Court, but city officials vowed to revalidate the “marriages” by overturning state marriage law.
In 2005, a lower court judge ruled that California marriage laws are unconstitutional.
California has a voter-passed Proposition 22, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Last year, supporters tried but failed to collect enough signatures to put a Proposition 22-style constitutional amendment before voters this year.
The Protect Marriage Arizona coalition on July 6 turned in some 300,000 signatures, far more than needed to put their marriage amendment before state voters in November. However, the group suffered a setback when its leader, Lynn Stanley, was killed in an automobile crash July 3.
Protect Marriage Illinois’ effort to put a nonbinding marriage referendum on the November ballot hit a snag as a preliminary review of some 347,000 signatures found that only 91 percent were valid, instead of the required 95 percent. Amendment backers have until Aug. 4 to double-check signatures deemed invalid.