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Vote or pay us damages, group tells lawmakers

Pro-family advocates say they haven’t given up on their goal of overturning Massachusetts’ approval of homosexual marriages, and have filed a lawsuit that seeks to attach a “personal liability” to state lawmakers who refused to vote on a proposed marriage amendment.

The action was filed by the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, in concert with the state’s VoteOnMarriage.org organization.

“Elected officials should be held accountable when they deliberately violate the law,” said Glen Lavy, the senior counsel for the ADF. “We’re in big trouble if the individuals who have sworn to uphold the Constitution can willfully ignore it with impunity once in office. Holding elected office does not mean you’re above the law.”

VoteOnMarriage.org announces its lawsuit against Massachusetts lawmakers over marriage amendment

John Haskins, who works with the unrelated group, Parents Rights Coalition, said the action is the result of the grass roots in Massachusetts and around the country insisting that the pro-family legal community not give up on Massachusetts and that legal strategies that had not been considered be employed.

He said pro-family lawyers “will either start taking the gloves off and learning to play offense and adamantly defend the state and federal constitutions they’ve sworn to defend or we might as well pack it up and go home.”

Haskins also works with a group called Mass Resistance.

VoteOnMarriage.org spokeswoman Lisa Barstow said the goal of the legal action is to convince state lawmakers to meet in a constitutional convention as required in Massachusetts and vote on allowing a proposed amendment to be put before voters.

That amendment would in the future require that participants in any marriage be one man and one woman.

“Ultimately what we all want is marriage between one man and one woman to be restored in Massachusetts,” she told WND. “We believe the route we are taking is the correct route.”

Last July, the state Supreme Judicial Court said a constitutional amendment setting into the state constitution the traditional definition of marriage as one man and one woman could be placed on the 2008 ballot.

But the state Constitution states the Legislature has a duty to vote on whether the process for placing the amendment on the ballot can move forward, and those lawmakers have declined to take that action.

“If they don’t do their job, we’re asking the court to hold them personally liable. These legislators will face no liability if they vote on the amendment,” said Lavy. “But it appears that the Legislature is only going to stop their illegal activities when they understand they’ll be held accountable for those activities. That’s why we have filed this lawsuit – to ensure that the legislators are held personally accountable to Massachusetts voters.”

The lawsuit, which is available online, was filed in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Mass., and names 109 legislators for violating the constitutional rights of state residents by intentionally refusing to vote on the citizen initiative.

“The evidence is overwhelming that those in the Massachusetts legislature who continue to recess the Constitutional Convention are doing so in an illegal effort to kill the marriage amendment by violating the state constitution,” said Kris Mineau, chief of the Massachusetts Family Institute.

The proposal, which was signed by 170,000 residents of Massachusetts, will expire if there’s no action by the end of the legislative session on Jan. 2, 2007, officials said.

“According to Article 48 of the Massachusetts constitution, and previously upheld by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the legislature has a legal and constitutional duty to vote upon all citizen initiative amendments duly brought before them,” the organization said.

Sen. President Robert Travaglini controls the rostrum during the convention and as such has sole discretion to control debate, said the VoteOnMarriage.org group. “House Speaker Sal DiMasi, a vocal opponent of the marriage amendment, lobbied a majority of the caucus on November 9, 2006, to vote to recess the convention to the last day of the legislative calendar – an effort to kill the amendment without a clear up or down vote.”

The lawsuit seeks rulings that amendment supporters have had their rights to free speech, to petition the government, to vote and to procedural due process violated.

The action seeks a declaration that the lawmakers are in violation of the constitution, an order that they would waive their ability to oppose the initiative and a conclusion that votes to recess on Nov. 9 actually would be counted as votes in favor of the amendment, and monetary damages for the expense of the campaign staged on behalf of the amendment.

According to state procedures, the initiative would need an affirmative vote by lawmakers in 2006, again in 2007, and then in 2008 could be put before voters.


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