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Mass. legislature considering options in wake of court ruling

BOSTON (BP)–The day after the state’s highest court made same-sex “marriage” legal, politicians in Massachusetts began debating the next step.

Some members of the legislature want to move to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex “marriage.” Others want to follow the court’s order and make it legal. Some want to walk the middle ground and legalize marriage-like civil unions.

No one knows who has the most votes, The Boston Globe reported.

The ruling Nov. 18 by the Supreme Judicial Court stopped short of issuing same-sex couples marriage licenses immediately. Instead, it stayed its own ruling and gave the legislature 180 days to “take such action as it may deem appropriate.”

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, issued a statement saying he favors a constitutional amendment.

“Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman,” the statement read. “I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution to make that expressly clear. Of course, we must provide basic civil rights and appropriate benefits to nontraditional couples, but marriage is a special institution that should be reserved for a man and a woman.”

One city, Cambridge, may attempt to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples before the 180 days is up. The Cambridge city council will consider a proposal Nov. 24 to authorize the city clerk to give homosexual couples such licenses, The Globe reported.

“Cambridge may be the model,” councilwoman Denise Simmons said, according to the newspaper. “I’m very optimistic that it could work.”

Such talk no doubt fuels conservatives’ desires to pass an amendment. However, any amendment wouldn’t make it to the ballot until 2006, far past the 180-day deadline. One option: The legislature could move toward an amendment and then ask the court to extend its stay and let the voters decide. But there is no guarantee the court would go along with such a request.

Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, a Democrat, said he is unsure what the legislature should do.

“This decision is very clear,” he said, according to The Globe. “It’s somewhat ambiguous [as to the legislature’s role]. They’re giving us 180 days to take action, but we’re not sure that any action that we take is going to affect the decision of the court.”

Even before the decision the legislature already had been considering an amendment and had scheduled a constitutional convention for Feb. 11.

Ron Crews, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, called on the legislature to pass an amendment.

“The residents of Massachusetts and of the entire country should take this as a wakeup call and impress upon their legislators the importance of defining marriage in the state constitution as the union of a man and woman,” he said in a statement. “Marriage is not just about financial benefits; it is about giving children the best environment in which to be raised, and ensuring the healthiest, most productive living conditions for adults.”

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