Thursday, April 15, 2004

MA Marriage Update 

House Speaker Tom Finneran has now indicated that he will take no further action to attempt a block on issuance of same sex marriages, scheduled to begin May 17. Arline Isaacson of the Mass. Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus is holding back on her assessment of Finneran's position, however, until staff members have had a chance to examine a state budget proposal released yesterday, and to which Finneran referenced. Apparently it involves creation of a report on the "revenue and expenditure impact" of same sex marriage licensing.

Governor Mitt Romney, however, is stepping up to the plate once more. He announced today his intention to seek emergency legislation that would authorize his appointment of a special counsel to request a stay of the SJC's order, since the state Attorney General has declined to do so. Romney states this action "will allow me to protect the integrity of the constitutional process." It appears instead that he is trying everything he can to dodge the constitutional roles assigned to the various branches of our commonwealth's governmental structure.

He apparently hopes to appoint retired SJC Justice Joseph R. Nolan, who has referred to the Goodridge decision as an "abomination." But I'm sure they're each keeping an open mind on the issue.

As the various political opponents to the SJC decision are dropping away from the fight, the Governor's latest effort doesn't appear to have much hope of getting very far. But he perseveres nonetheless. The official press release on this issue concludes with this statement, referring to the section of Massachusetts General Law which vests the Attorney General with "control over the conduct of litigation involving the Commonwealth, which includes the power to make policy determinations regarding legal strategy."

""I have introduced legislation to change the law, in just this one case, so that I can put the argument for a stay before the court directly, and ask them to respect the Legislature’s action, the constitutional process and the will of the people,” said Romney."

This strategy is consistent for Gov. Romney. The court determined that banning issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples is unconstitutional, so he focused on writing that discrimination into the constitution. But the constitutional process takes time, in part to prevent the enactment of amendments based on potentially short-lived popular movements. The governor has stated that he wouldn't act outside of the law to block implementation of the court's decision. He can't stop the order within the law, so he'll change the law - just this once.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:39 PM