Massachusetts High Court Won’t Force a Vote on Gay Marriage

Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court responded to a request from Governor Mitt Romney and opponents of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, saying it had no authority to force the legislature to vote on a measure that would place a proposed amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot.

Cape_cod_1The request was a response to a move made in early November by lawmakers who dealt the measure a “fatal blow” by voting to push a constitutional convention to the last day of the legislative session on January 2nd, effectively killing a vote on the proposed anti-gay amendment.

Said the Court: “Beyond resorting to aspirational language that relies on the presumptive good faith of elected representatives, there is no presently articulated judicial remedy for the Legislature’s indifference to, or defiance of, its constitutional duties…Those members who now seek to avoid their lawful obligations, by a vote to recess without a roll call vote by yeas and nays on the merits of the initiative amendment (or by other procedural vote of similar consequence), ultimately will have to answer to the people who elected them.”

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Opponents of Gay Marriage in Massachusetts Dealt “Fatal Blow” [tr]


  1. rjp3 says

    MITT ROMNEY is a HUGE hypocrite who is the real FLIP FLOPPER from Massachusetts. The leading gay hate group in MA is no friend of Mitt. They have posted a 1994 letter to the MA Chapter of the ever foolish Log Cabin group.

    In it he pledges to fight for FULL EQUALITY for gays and lesbians. Guess he meant full equality except marriage and adoption.

    HE IS SO NEVER GOING TO BE PRESIDENT IF WE ALL LET THE RIGHT WING KNOW WHO HE REALLY IS! A aged ex-pretty boy hypocrite who will sell us down the river if it gets him ahead.

  2. 24play says

    Okay, Chris, I’ll bite.

    How exactly do you get “issues decided by a group of [elderly] jurists” from an instance where the MA Supreme Judicial Court REFUSED (rightly so) to intervene in legislative matters?

    I hope this doesn’t mean we’re going to hear Mitt and Dubya and Bill O’Reilly decrying this decision as the work of “activist judges”? But then I guess that term just means “any judges whose decisions (or nondecisions) we disagree with.”

    What’s that I hear? Oh, it’s just George Orwell chuckling quietly to himself somewhere.

  3. Daniel says

    I find the notion that civil rights cases should be left up to popular vote incredibly offensive. Civil rights have NEVER been decided by popular vote in this country–that’s why we have the Bill of Rights. I find it really disturbing that people who support the rights of African Americans or other racial minorities or women somehow think gay rights should be a popularity contest.

  4. LightningLad says

    I agree with Daniel. Either civil rights for a minority group are recognized or protected under the U.S. Constitution or they are not. Civil rights should not be up for a vote by either the legislature or the people.

    That said, unfortunately, some of the most divisive civil rights issues of our time continue to be so precisely because they were taken out of the public arena and decided upon by the judiciary. Roe v. Wade stands as the prime example.

  5. Daniel says

    On issues like Roe V. Wade etc… They would continue to be controversial whether decided by courts or popular vote. If the majority voted to allow abortions there would still be the minority that finds that untenable. If the majority voted to outlaw abortions women would die in back alley abortions and other groups would find that untenable. It’s not because they were decided in the courts it’s because it is and will remain a controversial issue no matter what.

  6. rob adams says

    Imagine the ballot…
    The vertical column contains a list of social-classes (hispanic, various disabilities, mixed-races unions, religious affiliations, gender, family size, income-brackets, etc) and the horizontal column merely listed various civil-rights popularly enjoyed by the current majority citizens.

    Next, just go down the list and check those rights deemed “appropriate” for the class — please be conservative in your allowances, no reason to give away everything.

    If we can vote away one class’ civil-rights, then all classes should be up for consideration, imo.

  7. says

    yes. the courts are sometimes ahead of the people. in the area of civil rights, for example, if the courts weren’t, we’d still have “separate but equal” for African Americans. AND I love the image of Cape Cod. Positioned this way, it looks like Massachusetts is giving the proverbial “finger”! Thanks for this.

  8. LightningLad says


    My point was simply that many of these social issues such as abortion remain so divisive because they were “resolved” by the courts without the opportunity for the public to engage in civic discourse about it.

    I think when people feel that their views have been heard, even if they didn’t “win” the debate, I think there is less opportunity to feel resentful because they don’t feel that their heartfelt opinions have been overlooked.

    For example, many queers felt angry and disempowered when the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that states could outlaw consensual sex between two adults of the same sex. Don’t forget that in the years right after Bowers v. Hardwick you saw the rise of a more militant aggressive activism in the form of Queer Nation and ACT-UP – just as eventually the anti-abortion forces also became more aggressive and militant (eg. Operation Rescue).

    What I’m saying is, as much as I think civil rights should not be up for a vote, I also think something is to be said for encouraging public debate and conversation on these issues. Right now the Massachusetts Legislature has done an end run around the democratic process, leaving lots of people with legitimate political views about same-sex marriage feeling like their voices have not been heard in the debate.

    We keep hearing how education about gay lives is such an important factor in getting people to be less homophobic and to support gay rights. OK, so where is the opportunity for public dialogue?

    There is no opportunity for civic debate in our society anymore. As a result, both sides increasingly scream at or past each other yet neither listens to each other, and so ironically, as loud as they scream, neither side feels like they are being heard. So you have two increasingly loud shrill self-rightous sides who both think they are the victims because their voices are not heard in the larger culture.

  9. Anon says

    I think they should have voted and the amendment would have lost. Simple as that. The legislature was just cowardly in hiding behind the court. It will come back next year and the next, etc. It’s also preposterous that a court that can tell the legislature what laws it must pass can’t tell it to take a vote on a law. If it doesn’t have the latter power it certainly doesn’t have the former. This is what you call a dirty victory for gay rights. I also recall that the civil rights act of 1964 was passed by Congress. I don’t know where Daniel hopes such miracles will occur if not through legislation. The courts can’t do it all. Women’s right to vote, the end of prohibition, the democratization of the Senate and the right of 18 year olds to vote all passed legislatively. Try living in the real world.

  10. Daniel says

    Lightninglad, I got your point and I disagree with it. I think that people opposed to abortion beleive it is murder and therefore even if they were defeated by popular vote they will still feel the responsibility to stop it. And to the people who are opposed to gays the stakes are as high.

  11. says

    “Civil rights have NEVER been decided by popular vote in this country–that’s why we have the Bill of Rights.”

    Which, as a group of amendments to the Constitution, had to be approved by the mechanism of a popular vote in the form of either election of a legislature or a state constitutional convention, chosen by the voters, by three-quarters of the states. Just as every other constitutional amendment has been approved.

    The Constitution itself makes clear that the voters hold the ultimate power to shape and amend it as they see fit, and that no power or protection exists without their consent.

    I think gays should come right out and make it clear that they believe the voters have no right to amend their own Constitution, and that the government should systematically seek, as the Massachusetts Legislature and the Supreme Court have, to disenfranchise and block any attempt by voters to do so.

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