Liberty Counsel Files Brief in Federal Court of Appeals Urging the Court to Halt Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts

May 21, 2004

BOSTON, MA - Today, Liberty Counsel filed a brief with the First Circuit Court of Appeals in its case against the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”), urging the First Circuit to immediately halt same-sex marriages in Massachusetts. The brief comes one week after the Court of Appeals agreed to expedite the hearing on the case. The plaintiffs in the case are Robert Largess, Vice-President of the Catholic Action League, and eleven Massachusetts Legislators.

Oral argument on the request to halt the same-sex marriages is set for the week of June 7. Mathew Staver, President and General Counsel for Liberty Counsel, who argued the case before the Federal District Court last week, will present argument before the Court of Appeals.

Staver stated, “Our brief argues that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court exceeded its power when it redefined marriage from the ‘union of one man and one woman’ to the ‘union of two persons.’”

The Massachusetts Constitution expressly gives the Executive branch of government sole authority over all causes of marriage; provided that the Legislature may delegate authority to other branches of government. Part 2, ch. III, art. V, of the Massachusetts Constitution states: “All causes of marriage, divorce, and alimony, and all appeals from the Judges of probate shall be heard and determined by the Governor and Council, until the Legislature shall, by law, make other provision.” In 1785, the Legislature delegated to the Judicial branch divorce and alimony, and in 1836 delegated annulment and affirmation. Outside of these four limited areas, the courts have no authority over marriage. The SJC acknowledged that the undisputed meaning of “marriage” is the “union of one man and one woman,” but then the SJC went on to “reformulate” and redefine the meaning to that of a “union of two persons.”

Staver said, “When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court redefined marriage it amended the state constitution and exceeded its authority. When the highest court of a state violates separation of powers, federal courts, under the Guarantee Clause of the United States Constitution, may restore the balance of power declared by the people. The battle over same-sex marriage is far from over. It is just beginning. The circumstances in Massachusetts underscore the need for a federal constitutional amendment to preserve marriage between one man and one woman.”

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Liberty Counsel, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, is a national public interest law firm dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family. On the campus of Liberty University School of Law in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty Counsel's Center for Constitutional Litigation and Policy trains attorneys, law students, policy-makers, legislators, clergy and world leaders in constitutional principles and government policies.