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Skeptical Mass. high court reconsiders marriage ruling

BOSTON (BP)–A lawyer for a conservative religious group asked the Massachusetts high court May 2 to stay its historic ruling and halt “gay marriages” in the state, but the justices appeared unwilling to take such an action.

The case was heard nearly a year after Massachusetts became the first state to recognize “gay marriage.”

The current case before the justices involves the Catholic Action League, which wants the issuance of marriage licenses to homosexual couples stopped while the legislature considers a constitutional marriage amendment. An amendment passed the legislature last year and must pass once more in order to go before voters in 2006.

“It’s the equivalent of going to the town hall to vote for whether or not we will have a new gymnasium or not, and all of a sudden, you drive by a brand new gymnasium before you’ve voted,” Chester Darling, an attorney representing the Catholic Action League, told the court, according to The Boston Globe. Darling is an attorney with the Citizens for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights.

Justices, though, seemed unconvinced, and tossed several tough questions at Darling and another pro-family lawyer, Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center. The justices asked no questions to the two opposing attorneys.

Even two justices who initially dissented in the historic ruling appeared opposed to halting the “marriages.”

“How has the full and robust public discourse been inhibited?” Justice Robert J. Cordy, one of three dissenters in the ruling, asked, according to The Globe. “It seems to me if anything, it’s been enlivened on this subject.”

Following oral arguments Muise was pessimistic about the case’s outcome.

“In many respects, we’re asking for the fox to guard the henhouse,” he told The Globe. “But that’s the situation that we’re in.”

The Supreme Judicial Court issued its 4-3 decision legalizing “gay marriage” in November 2003, although it did not go into effect until May 17, 2004. In the weeks leading up to that May date Catholic Action League Executive Director C. Joseph Doyle unsuccessfully petitioned a single justice on the court to stay the ruling, pending the outcome of the amendment process. He then requested an expedited appeal but was again denied. But the court allowed the case to continue on a normal schedule, and in February of this year said it would hear oral arguments.

Last year the Massachusetts state legislature passed a compromise marriage amendment that bans “gay marriage” while legalizing same-sex civil unions. It must pass once more before it goes on the ballot. The legislature is expected to vote again this fall, although its passage is in doubt. Pro-family groups in the state have indicated they will not support its passage, choosing instead to start from scratch and push for an amendment that does not legalize civil unions.

Massachusetts is the only state to recognize “gay marriage,” although that could change this year. Washington state’s high court heard a case in March that could make that state the first in the West to legalize “gay marriage.” All total, eight states are involved in similar lawsuits.

The Massachusetts ruling sparked a backlash that has led to 14 states passing constitutional marriage amendments within the last year alone. Another four will vote on amendments next year, with more likely to follow. Eighteen states have marriage amendments; they have passed with an average of 70 percent of the vote.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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