By David Weber
Monday, November 20, 2006
BOSTON, Nov. 19 -- Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said Sunday that he will ask the state's highest court this week to order a ballot question on same-sex marriage if legislators fail to vote on the matter when they reconvene in January.
Romney said he will ask a justice of the state's Supreme Judicial Court to direct the secretary of state to place the question on the ballot if lawmakers do not vote directly on the question Jan. 2, the final day of the current session. Romney's term as governor expires Jan. 4.
The legislature is in recess and, because it did not adjourn, Romney has no legal authority to call legislators back into session.
Romney, an opponent of same-sex marriage, made his announcement to the cheers of hundreds of same-sex-marriage opponents at a rally on the Statehouse steps. A counter-protest was held across the street.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November 2003 that same-sex marriages are legal. Since then, more than 8,000 gay couples have tied the knot in the state.
More than 170,000 people had signed a petition in support of the ballot question, which would define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Romney has criticized lawmakers since they refused earlier this month to take up the question during a joint session, voting instead to recess, all but killing the measure.
"A decision not to vote is a decision to usurp the Constitution, to abandon democracy and substitute a form of what this nation's founders called tyranny, that is, the imposition of the will of those in power, on the people," Romney said earlier. "The issue now before us is not whether same-sex couples should marry. The issue before us today is whether 109 legislators will follow the Constitution."
Supporters of same-sex marriage defended lawmakers' procedural move.
"One of the tenets of the Constitution is that you do not put the rights of a minority up for a popularity contest," said Marc Solomon, campaign director for Mass Equality, which supports same-sex marriage. "It is one of the very principles this country was founded upon."
Messages seeking comment from legislative leaders were not immediately returned Sunday.
The legislature grappled with various efforts to ban same-sex marriages before the high court ruling in 2003. Lawmakers refused to vote on a citizens' initiative in 2002, and two years later they voted down their own proposed amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage and legalized civil unions.