January 3, 2006

Massachusetts sued over gay marriage ruling

By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - Gay rights lawyers filed on Tuesday a
lawsuit to stop a proposed ballot measure aimed at overturning
a court decision that made Massachusetts the first and only
U.S. state to legalize gay marriage.

The lawsuit by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
(GLAD) said the state's attorney general erred when he ruled in
September that Massachusetts voters could decide in a 2008 poll
to redefine marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

They said the decision by Thomas Reilly, a Democrat who is
likely to run for governor this year, was unconstitutional
because ballot initiatives cannot reverse judicial decisions
under the state's Constitution.

"The attorney general simply got it wrong," Gary Buseck,
GLAD's legal director, said in a statement.

Reilly's office said his decision was legally sound, adding
that Reilly does not personally favor banning same-sex

Massachusetts' highest court ruled in 2003 that it was
unconstitutional to ban gay marriage, paving the way for
America's first same-sex marriages in May the following year.

Since then, about 7,000 gays and lesbians have wed in the
state, and gay rights advocates across the country have sought
to encourage other states to legalize same-sex marriages.

Those efforts have largely failed, most recently in Texas,
which in November became the 19th U.S. state to approve a
constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Homosexual couples in at least seven states have filed
lawsuits seeking the right to marry, while as many as 10 states
could see campaigns this year for amendments to uphold marriage
as the union of a man and a woman.


In Massachusetts, VoteOnMarriage.org -- a coalition of
conservative and Christian groups -- proposed the 2008 ballot
initiative to amend the state constitution by defining marriage
as exclusively between a man and a woman.

Between September 21 and November 23 last year, they
gathered more than twice the number of voter signatures needed
for state legislators to put the question to the public.

On Tuesday they predicted the lawsuit would be defeated.

"We don't think the suit is credible," said Kristian
Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, a
backer of the initiative. "I think they were surprised at the
magnitude of the number of signatures -- 170,000 -- which tells
us what an electrifying issue this is with the people."

Conservatives and some religious groups say the issue is so
important that voters should decide it, not the state Supreme

Massachusetts' Republican governor, Mitt Romney, a devout
Mormon with White House ambitions, supports their position.

The ballot initiative must be approved by 25 percent of the
200-member state Legislature this year and again in 2007 before
it can go to voters.

If passed, it would not seek to annul marriage licenses
already issued to same-sex couples.

GLAD said it expects the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial
Court for Suffolk County to consider the lawsuit against Reilly
in the next few months.