BOSTON — If C.J. Doyle’s petition to Massachusetts’ highest court is successful, the state law that legalized same-sex “marriages” would be blocked until the outcome of a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to ban same-sex “marriages” within the state is known.
“We believe that such a fundamental issue of law, so vital to the future of society, ought to be decided by the people and the elected representatives without interference and pre-emption by the (Supreme Judicial) Court,” said Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts.
By filing the petition, Doyle said he was trying to exhaust every legal avenue to try to defeat the same-sex “marriage” law. His Catholic faith was also a major influence and inspiration, he said.
Doyle’s petition states that he “opposes so-called same-sex ‘marriages’ and their equivalent and firmly believes that the unique relationship of marriage as the union of one man and one woman must be protected in order to promote, among other goals, the stability and welfare of society, the best interest of children and the common good of this Commonwealth.”
The court agreed on Feb. 9 that it would hear oral arguments in the case. Still, Doyle is not optimistic.
“Our success is not dependent upon the merit of our argument but the ideological disposition of the court, and that makes it a very uphill battle,” he said.
The issue has been a contentious one since the court, in November 2003, became the first in the country to rule that homosexual couples had the right to “marry.” The court gave the state legislature six months to rewrite the marriage laws to include same-sex couples. During that time, legislators convened a constitutional convention, in which a proposed amendment was passed that would ban same-sex “marriages” but allow civil unions.
However, in order for Massachusetts’ voters to decide the fate of the amendment during the fall 2006 elections, lawmakers from both houses have to ratify it during the 2005-2006 legislative session.
Last April, working on the assumption that the constitutional amendment will one day be brought to voters, Doyle began his legal odyssey to block the law from going into effect on May 17, 2004. His lawyers petitioned a justice on the court to request a stay until the outcome of the constitutional amendment process. But the request was denied, said Robert Muise, a lawyer with the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. Muise is one of the attorneys representing Doyle.
A request to hold an expedited hearing was also denied, Muise said.
He added that the justices’ decision to hear Doyle’s case may have been influenced by last fall’s elections, in which 11 states passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex “marriages.” Although the justices try to remain above the fray of the political process, he said “they’re human beings.
“It would be extraordinary that they have not at least thought about what the impact of their decision was nationally, and how the nation responded with all these amendments,” he said.
Another of Doyle’s lawyers, Chester Darling of Boston, said their approach to try to block same-sex couples from marrying — at least until the voters have spoken — is a “novel” one. But he is not expecting the justices to be too impressed during the hearing, which will probably be in May.
“You have to remember how politically charged this whole issue is,” said Darling, the leader of Citizens for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights Inc. “We’re talking to a court that has dug its heels in twice. I’m hopeful it will be a professional exchange, but there is going to be a lot of tension in the courtroom.”
Homosexual activists are definitely not impressed with the latest twist in the case.
“The basis for the legal claim is ridiculous,” said Josh Friedes, the advocacy director for the Massachusetts Freedom to Marry Coalition. “The court, of course, is going to treat every lawsuit in accordance with process. The fact that it’s moving its way through the courts is as expected. We don’t expect the case to be successful.”
Basic Civil Right
Friedes said he viewed marriage as a basic civic right, which is one reason why the rationale behind the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling was “flawless,” because the state’s constitution is more expansive in terms of its definition of rights than the U.S. Constitution.
He predicted that the oral arguments will end up as being “closure” for this issue, with Doyle’s petition ultimately failing.
Although the Massachusetts Catholic Conference has been in the forefront of leading a grassroots effort to try to defeat the law, one of its senior members was not too thrilled with the possible outcome of the spring hearing. Daniel Avila, the associate director for policy and research for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, hasn’t heard any evidence that the four justices who voted in favor of homosexual marriage have had a change of heart.
“My guess is the purpose (of the oral arguments) is not something that will be beneficial to us,” Avila said. “(The justices) probably have some ulterior motives that has less to do with trying to find a way to limit the ruling and more to do with maybe throwing some grain into the grinder that will slow down the process to amend the state constitution with a full protection of marriage as union between a man and a woman.”
Carlos Briceño writes
from Seminole, Florida.