[JURIST] Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts [official website] Justice Judith Cowin [official profile] ruled Thursday that all seven of the court's justices will hear a request to put a measure effectively banning same-sex marriage [text, DOC] on the 2008 Massachusetts ballot if legislators fail to vote on the issue before the end of their term on January 2. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney [official website] last week asked the court [JURIST report] to put same-sex marriage on the ballot, after calling the legislature's failure to act on the issue a "form of ... tyranny" [speech, DOC; JURIST report]. Cowin, who voted in 2003 to legalize same-sex marriages, sat as the lone justice at Thursday's hearing [docket], but ruled that the entire court should take up the matter at a December 20 hearing.
In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] with the state high court's decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health [text; JURIST report]. The proposed constitutional amendment, which has garnered over 170,000 signatures, would strictly define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, though it would leave existing Massachusetts same-sex marriages intact. It would need 50 votes in the 2007 House and again in 2008 to be put on the November 2008 electoral ballot. When the state legislature last considered the amendment earlier this month opponents of the measure failed to amass the 151 votes necessary to kill the matter, instead voting 109-87 to recess [JURIST report] a joint session with the Senate until January. AP has more.