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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 8, 2006

Mass. governor asks court to force marriage ban

Boston--Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney wants the state�s highest court to force lawmakers to vote on a constitutional marriage ban amendment, and if they won�t, to put it on the ballot anyway.

He will have his day in court on December 20.

The state House and Senate, meeting in a joint �constitutional convention� on November 9, voted to recess instead of voting on the amendment. The measure would end same-sex marriage in the only state that allows it.

Proponents gathered 170,000 petition signatures for the amendment, and it needed the votes of just one-quarter of the 200 legislators to advance to another session next year. This means it could have taken 150 votes to stop it, which the pro-marriage side didn�t have. But it only took half the votes to recess until January 2, the last day of the session.

The ban must be approved in two consecutive two-year legislative sessions before going on the ballot. However, it is unlikely that a vote will be held on the day after the New Year holiday.

So Romney has sued, asking the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to force the legislature to vote on the amendment.

The suit also asks that the court order Secretary of State William F. Galvin to put the ban directly onto the 2008 ballot if Senate President Robert E. Travaglini does not have a vote when the constitutional convention reconvenes.

Both sides of the issue testified before Justice Judith A. Cowin on November 30. Romney asked for the matter to be settled by the full court.

Cowin, who in the majority for the court�s 2003 decision that barring same-sex marriage violated the state constitution, took a few hours before granting Romney�s request.

The last time a marriage ban amendment was to be discussed in a con-con, legislators voted to adjourn the session, ending its chances. Romney attempted to force the legislators back into session but was unsuccessful.

This time, by recessing, legislators circumvented Romney�s ability to call them back--they have not ended the discussion, simply postponed it.

Both sides believe it is unlikely that the matter will be voted on at the January 2 meeting. What is more likely is that the constitutional convention will be adjourned, leaving Romney no time to call legislators back before the legislative session ends. Without a vote, the measure dies.

Marriage advocates and political pundits heaped scorn on Romney, calling his opposition to same-sex marriage an attempt to curry favor with religious conservatives for a 2008 presidential bid.

They do not, however, believe that this tactic will work.

Romney first campaigned for governor as a pro-gay, moderate Republican. It has only been in the last three years that he has tried to position himself as a conservative, appearing at evangelical Christian events around the nation and spearheading, or at least cheerleading, efforts to overturn the Supreme Judicial Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

�Romney is going to battle stations over yesterday�s issue,� Eleanor Clift wrote in Newsweek. �He says [John] McCain is �disingenuous� because he opposes same-sex marriage but believes it should be left up to the states. Romney wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.�

�Yet he was elected governor as a social moderate and once ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate as a liberal Republican,� she continued. �Where does he get off accusing McCain of trying to have it both ways when it comes to gay marriage?�


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