[JURIST] Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney [official website] on Sunday urged state legislators [DOC speech transcript] to vote on a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage ban and said he will petition the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to place the question on the next ballot if legislators fail to vote on the issue before the end of their term on January 2. Earlier this month, legislators postponed [JURIST report] a vote on the proposed constitutional amendment [DOC text] to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. The state assembly must approve the amendment before it can be presented to voters for final approval. Although opponents of same-sex marriage had obtained 170,000 signatures in favor of putting the measure before the legislature, they lacked the requisite support of one-quarter of the lawmakers to approve a vote on the issue. In his speech Sunday, Romney said:
Last week, 109 legislators decided to reject the law, abandon the Constitution, and violate their oath of office. For the Constitution plainly states that when a qualified petition is placed before them, the legislature "shall" vote. It does not say may vote, or vote if its procedures permit a vote, or vote if there are enough of the members in attendance. It says "shall" vote. 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.Massachusetts [JURIST news archive] is currently the only US state to recognize same-sex marriage, after a November 2003 state high court ruling [JURIST report, background materials]. More than 8,000 couples have subsequently wed in the state, and the precedent has sparked a nationwide debate over gay marriage.
As I listened to the debate in the legislative session last week, I was struck by the irony, and the hypocrisy. Legislators so energized to protect the newly discovered gay right to marry had no compunction about trammeling the long established, constitutional right of the people to vote. 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. Tomorrow, I will send these 109 a copy of the Constitution and of their oath of office. And this week, we will file an action before the courts, calling upon the judiciary to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens. Let us not see this state, which first established constitutional democracy, become the first to abandon it.
Earlier this month, Arizona voters rejected a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages [JURIST report], civil unions and domestic partnerships. At the same time, voters in seven other states - Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin - approved ballot measures supporting traditional marriage. Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that same-sex couples must be afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples and gave the legislature 180 days to vote on whether to amend the state's marriage laws. Several similar cases have been decided or are pending in other states including California, Washington, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Connecticut [JURIST reports]. AP has more.