Thursday, 4:30 PM
Full SJC to hear Romney's gay marriage case
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Correspondent
A single justice ruled today that the full state Supreme Judicial Court should hear a lawsuit spearheaded by out-going Governor Mitt Romney that seeks to override the Legislature and let voters decide whether to ban same-sex marriage with a constitutional amendment.
The decision by Justice Judith A. Cowin came hours after a 30-minute hearing this morning in which she peppered lawyers with questions. Oral arguments in the case have been set for Dec. 20, giving the governor one last battle in his struggle against gay marriage before he leaves office in early January.
Romney, a likely presidential candidate, and 10 other plaintiffs have alleged that legislators subverted the democratic process on Nov. 9 when they met in joint session as a constitutional convention and took no action on the ban. The Legislature voted, 109 to 87, to recess before taking a vote on whether to put the proposed amendment on the 2008 ballot.
The suit charges that the Legislature's refusal to act on the measure marks the fifth time in 24 years that lawmakers had violated the constitutional provision that allows citizens to vote on amendments they initiated. Proponents of the same-sex marriage ban collected a record 170,000 signatures in hopes of getting the amendment on the ballot. But to qualify for a statewide referendum, the measure also requires the support of at least 50 legislators in two consecutive sessions.
The plaintiffs want the court to order lawmakers to vote on the amendment. If the Legislature does not act, the suit asks the justices to direct Secretary of State William F. Galvin to put the measure on the 2008 ballot anyway.
The defendants in the case include Galvin and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, who presided over the Legislature's constitutional convention.
Cowin voted with the 4-3 majority in the 2003 landmark SJC decision that ruled that gays and lesbians have the right to marry under the constitution. The proposed amendment would withdraw that right.