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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 3, 2004

Supreme Court allows Massachusetts marriage
to stand

Washington, D.C.--The U.S. Supreme Court on November 29 declined to hear a challenge to Massachusetts� same-sex marriage ruling, thus allowing it to stand. The court made no comment on the case.

The suit, filed on behalf of 11 conservative Massachusetts legislators and the Catholic Action League, contended that the state�s Supreme Judicial Court exceeded its authority in its November 2003 ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the state�s constitution.

Over 4,000 gay and lesbian couples have married in the state since the ruling took effect on May 17.

The Massachusetts ruling gave impetus to 13 amendments to other state constitutions barring recognition of same-sex marriages, including Ohio�s, bringing the total number of states with such amendments to 17.

Legislators in Massachusetts gave narrow approval to a state constitutional amendment earlier this year that would bar recognition of same-sex marriage but create civil unions. They must pass the measure a second time in 2005 or 2006 before it would go to the voters. If they do, the soonest it can be voted on is November 2006.

However, supporters of same-sex marriage defeated amendment backers in six Statehouse races last month, reducing the chance of it passing again. The pro-amendment House speaker has also been replaced by one who supports full marriage.

Other states are certain to vote on anti-marriage amendments, an issue that brings out conservative voters and will likely help rightist candidates in upcoming elections.

New amendments have been proposed in Kansas and Arizona. Wisconsin may vote on one in April.

The Supreme Court�s refusal to take the case may give marriage suits in Washington state, California, New York and New Jersey more steam now that the threat of the Supreme Court overturning a state supreme court decision is less likely.

�This is another step in the right direction to turn back the national gay discrimination movement by the religious right,� said Kate Anderson, executive director of Stonewall Columbus. �We were all hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court would not act on this attempt by the right wing to undermine the constitutional protections for all citizens.�

White House press secretary Scott McClellan, however, asserted during a press briefing that President Bush will still seek a federal constitutional amendment barring the recognition of same-sex marriage. Such a measure would end the Massachusetts marriages.

�I think that the president continues to emphasize the importance of moving forward on a constitutional amendment that would allow the people�s voice to be heard and not allow this issue to be decided by activist judges or local officials who seek to redefine what is a sacred institution,� McClellan said in response to a reporter�s question.

McClellan then wavered between saying that the already-passed amendments showed the people exerting their will and asserting that it needed to be done on a federal level.

�Just to get this straight,� asked the reporter. �The president does not want to allow the people of a state to decide to allow for gay marriage. In other words, he wants a federal constitutional amendment that would stop a majority in the state from voting.�

�He supports the constitutional amendment and the constitutional process would allow the state�s voice to be heard,� McClellan replied.



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