An Overview of the Massachusetts Federal Court Rulings and the Next Legal and Political Steps

May 17, 2004

Boston, MA -- Following the rulings by the federal courts last week, many are wondering what is the next step in the battle over marriage. Mathew Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel has written a detailed article explaining the federal courts' actions and the status of the ongoing litigation. The article is online at and portions are summarized below.

Although the federal appeals court denied Liberty Counsel's request for an immediate injunction pending appeal, allowing Massachusetts officials to issue licenses to same-sex couples, it granted an expedited hearing. This means that the court will consider the request to stop the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in Massachusetts. Mat Staver will argue the case in Boston during the week of June 7. After the appeals court ruling, either side could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Mat Staver's article addresses the legal status and possible political responses including action by the Massachusetts governor and the state legislature. The Massachusetts constitution specifically gives the executive branch authority over marriage, with the proviso that the legislative branch can delegate authority over marriage to other branches. The legislature has only delegated four such matters to the judiciary -- divorce, alimony, anulment and affirmation.

In the Goodridge case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court usurped the power of the legislative and executive branches when it redefined marriage from "union of one man and one woman" to the "union of two persons." The executive branch, through the governor, is empowered to issue an executive order which refuses to implement this ruling. The Massachusetts legislature is also empowered to pass a law stating that courts have no authority to redefine marriage.

Since February 12, 2004, there have been 17 legal cases involving same-sex marriage. Liberty Counsel is involved in 15 of those cases, including the first suit filed to stop San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom from issuing licenses to same-sex couples, and the suit that stopped New Paltz, New York Mayor Jason West from performing same-sex marriages.

Promoting Traditional Marriage Across America

Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel, is in New York today, arguing our case against New Paltz Mayor Jason West. Mayor West performed "marriages" for same-sex couples, in violation of New York law.

On March 3, 2004, Ulster County Judge Vincent Bradley issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the Mayor, preventing him from solemnizing any more same-sex "marriages." In the Order, the judge stated that Mayor West took an oath of office to uphold the law, and his solemnizing same-sex marriages without a valid license violated New York law which limits marriage to one man and one woman. The lawsuit was filed by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Robert Hebel, a member of the New Paltz Board of Trustees.

Mat Staver will be appearing tonight in Texas on the television program "Lights of the Southwest," to inform and educate viewers about how to combat same-sex marriage in America. The program will be broadcast live on God's Learning Channel.

Updates on Liberty Counsel's most recent cases are posted online at