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Court says it cannot force lawmakers to vote on gay marriage ban

Court says it cannot force lawmakers to vote on gay marriage ban

The highest court in the only U.S. state that allows gay marriage said it has no authority to force lawmakers to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban it.
But in a unanimous ruling Wednesday, it rebuked the Legislature for its "indifference to, or defiance of, its constitutional duties."
Opponents of gay marriage have collected 170,000 signatures in favor of an amendment to end the practice. But the measure needs the Legislature's approval to appear on the 2008 ballot, and lawmakers refused to vote on the proposal last month. Republican Governor Mitt Romney, who is expected to run for president in 2008, and other opponents of gay marriage responded by suing to try to force the lawmakers to act.
The Supreme Judicial Court _ the same court that in 2003 ruled the Massachusetts Constitution gives gays the right to marry _ said it cannot force a vote. It said the most the court could do was remind lawmakers of that duty.
The proposed amendment needs the approval of lawmakers in two consecutive two-year sessions to appear on the 2008 ballot. The last day of the current session is Tuesday. If lawmakers adjourn without taking up the amendment, the measure will die.
In a statement, Romney said, "The issue is now whether the Legislature will follow the law."
The proposed amendment defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. It would leave all of the more than 8,000 existing same-sex marriages intact but would ban any more such weddings.
Opponents of gay marriage argue the people, not the courts, should define something as important as marriage. Supporters of gay marriage say the civil rights of a minority should not be put to a popular vote.
Marc Solomon of MassEquality, a gay rights group, said after Wednesday's ruling: "We urge the Legislature to end this debate once and for all and let committed couples and their families get on with their lives."
One of the gay-marriage opponents who sued to try to force the Legislature to vote, C.J. Doyle of the Catholic Action League, said he doubts lawmakers will act, despite the court's rebuke.
"Our legislators have demonstrated time and time again a contempt for the constitution and for their oath of office," Doyle said.
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Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-21 13:08 GMT+08:00