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Wednesday, December 20, 2006
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff, and Andrew Ryan, Globe Correspondent
A lawyer representing the Senate president in a legal battle over a proposed ban on gay marriage acknowledged to the Supreme Judicial Court today that the architects of ballot initiatives intended lawmakers to bring the measures to a vote.
However, Assistant Attorney General Peter Sacks told the seven justices that the court had no legal standing to force the Legislature to vote on the proposed constitutional amendment before its term expires on Jan. 2. The people's only recourse, Sacks said, was to vote for different legislators next election.
"Our position is that judicial relief is not available," Sacks told the court.
The lawsuit, spearheaded by Governor Mitt Romney, charges that legislators subverted the state constitution on Nov. 9 when they met in joint session and took no action on a voter-initiative petition to ban gay marriage.
John Hanify, a lawyer representing Romney and 10 other plaintiffs, also gave some ground. Hanify conceded that the court could not force the Legislature to take a vote.
However, Hanify did ask the court to clarify for Senate President Robert Travaglini the article of the state constitution that outlines the procedure for ballot initiatives and remind him that a vote is supposed to be taken.
The court did not issue a decision, but supporters of the ballot initiative say they want one before the last day of the legislative session on Jan. 2.
Backers of a constitutional amendment had collected 170,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot in 2008. To qualify for a statewide referendum, however, a measure needs the support of at least 50 legislators in two consecutive sessions. Instead of acting on the measure, the Legislature moved to recess the joint session until Jan. 2.
Posted by the Boston Globe City & Region Desk at 10:52 AM