Petition Filed to Stay Massachusetts Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Apr 20, 2004

Boston, MA – Today, a petition was filed by several pro-family groups with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court asking the Court to stay its opinion in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health until 2006, to allow the voters in Massachusetts a chance to approve a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman only. Under the opinion same sex couples would be allowed to marry on May 17, 2004. The Petition was filed on behalf of C. Joseph Doyle, Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. Mr. Doyle is represented by Citizens for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights, Thomas More Law Center, Liberty Counsel and the AFA Center for Law and Policy.

On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its opinion in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. The decision held that same-sex couples must be given the right to marry in Massachusetts. The Court stayed its decision for 180 days to allow the Massachusetts Legislature “to take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion.” The Legislature responded by adopting a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that states, in relevant part, “It being the public policy of this commonwealth to protect the unique relationship of marriage, only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in the commonwealth of Massachusetts.” The constitutional amendment process in Massachusetts requires two successive State Legislatures to approve any proposed constitutional amendment before it can be submitted to the voters for approval. This means that the earliest the people of Massachusetts will be able to vote on the proposed constitutional amendment will be 2006.

The Petition requests that the Supreme Court stay its decision establishing same-sex marriage until the voters of Massachusetts have a chance to vote in 2006 on the proposed constitutional amendment. The Petition argues that allowing the decision to go into effect in the face of a proposed constitutional amendment that would nullify the decision would deny the right to vote of the people of Massachusetts and would deny their right to participate in the constitutional amendment process.

Erik Stanley, Chief Counsel for Liberty Counsel, stated, “Staying the decision to allow the amendment process to move forward is the right thing to do. It is up to the people of Massachusetts to decide whether to allow same-sex marriage – not the Courts.” Stanley continued, “The Supreme Court recognized that its decision marked a change in the marriage laws of the State and gave the Legislature time to respond. The Legislature has done so by adopting a proposed constitutional amendment.” Stanley concluded, “The people of Massachusetts have a right to have their voice heard on this important issue instead of having a decision imposed upon them by judicial fiat.”