(2nd add: Includes comments from the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry)
(CNSNews.com) - The same court that ruled two years ago that homosexual marriage was legal in Massachusetts, Wednesday gave opponents of homosexual marriage a bit of good news.
The Supreme Judicial Court determined that it had no right to order the state Legislature to vote on whether to place a ballot initiative banning homosexual marriage before voters.
However, the justices also blamed state lawmakers for not taking matters into their own hands, for abandoning "their lawful obligations" on the issue. Opponents of homosexual marriage in Massachusetts need the Legislature to approve the ballot referendum process in order for the controversy to go before voters in the 2008 election.
Outgoing Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, a vocal opponent of homosexual marriage, is likely to take the issue to the national stage in 2008 when he is expected to be a candidate for president.
Romney used the Supreme Judicial Court's latest ruling to scold the Legislature. "As the court has made very clear, a procedural maneuver to avoid this responsibility would violate a legislator's oath of office," Romney reportedly stated. "The issue is now whether the Legislature will follow the law."
C.J. Doyle of the Catholic Action League, who was a plaintiff in the case asking the court to clarify the Legislature's duties, said he does not expect lawmakers to take action.
"There is no court decision that can infuse the Massachusetts General Court with integrity," the Boston Globe quoted Doyle as saying. "Our legislators have demonstrated time and time again a contempt for the constitution and for their oath of office."
Marc Solomon of the homosexual rights group MassEquality, said the best thing the Legislature can do now is nothing. "We urge the Legislature to end this debate once and for all and let committed couples and their families get on with their lives," he said.
The Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry (RCFM) issued a statement Wednesday noting that the court's decision "doesn't change the facts. Voting on the human rights of any minority is neither fair nor just. Legislators need to listen to their hearts and conscience and stop the ballot initiative amendment on Jan. 2nd."
"The charge to take away marriage equality is led by religious leaders who oppose equal marriage based solely on their particular beliefs, beliefs not shared by many from other faith traditions," the RCFM added.
"This ballot initiative amendment, if passed, would restrict the religious freedom of clergy to perform same-sex marriages, as well as removing rights from our gay and lesbian citizens," the group noted. "Imposing certain religious beliefs on everyone constitutes religious discrimination.
"It's time to let all families and children and every religious community continue to live in dignity with equal rights and protections under our laws," the group stated. "We urge legislators to end the debate on the 2nd."
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