Mass. Legislature Urged to Use Final Day to Vote on Marriage Ballot Issue

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - Urging the Massachusetts legislature to act on a provision to allow the general public to decide the definition of marriage, a pro-family group said Thursday that the body was "constitutionally obligated" to vote on the matter before its legislative year ends on January 2.

A suit brought by outgoing Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, an opponent of same-sex "marriage," argued that lawmakers were stripping voters of their right to amend the state Constitution by not voting on a measure to bring the question to a ballot referendum in 2008.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it was the legislators' constitutional duty to vote, but that it was not within the court's authority to compel them to vote.

"Those members who now seek to avoid their lawful obligations, by a vote to recess without a roll call vote by yeas and nays on the merits of the initiative amendment (or by other procedural vote of similar consequence), ultimately will have to answer to the people who elected them," it said.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the court decision "hypocritical."

"Three years ago, the court created this conflict by imposing same-sex marriage. It's time the people were given a voice now that both the court and the legislature has trampled upon 5,000 years of human history and the nation's oldest state constitution," he said in a statement released Thursday.

"In Massachusetts, we have lawmakers who are so under the sway of the homosexual activists that they refuse to carry out their duty under the state constitution," he added.

"It is not going too far to conclude that the citizens of Massachusetts no longer live in a democracy; rather, they live in an oligarchy where their elected representatives flaunt the constitution at will," Perkins said.

"There is only one day left in the legislature's session this year," he said, looking to January 2 as a deadline. "No legislator in Massachusetts can pretend that he or she is not constitutionally obligated to vote on this provision -- the court's decision made that clear."

For the measure on same-sex marriage to appear on the November 2008 ballot, the state legislature must approve it this year and again next year. The current legislative year has only one final day to run -- January 2.

Marc Solomon, campaign director for MassEquality -- a group that says it defends "equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts" -- said Thursday he did not think the court's decision had "any impact at all."

"The court dismissed the suit and ruled that it can't... force the legislature to vote," he told Cybercast News Service.

"We are urging that the legislature adjourn without taking up the amendments," Solomon said.

"There have been 18 substantive votes on the issue of marriage equality over the last two and a half years," he said. "There have been literally hundreds of hours of debate in the legislature. It is simply time to move on; people want to move on."

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