Gov. Mitt Romney asked Massachusetts’ highest court Friday to force a proposed anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment onto the state’s 2008 ballot if the Legislature fails to vote on it.

(Reuters Photo)

The Republican governor, a fierce opponent of gay marriage and a possible presidential contender, filed the request with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court after lawmakers put off acting on the question until January. The high court ruled 4-3 in 2003 that the state could no longer deny marriage licenses to gay couples. Romney has said the state Constitution requires legislators to vote on whether the measure should go on the ballot. If they don’t vote when they return Jan. 2, the last day of the legislative session, the court can order the secretary of state to put it on the 2008 ballot, Romney argues. The postponement of legislative action was widely seen by supporters and opponents of gay marriage as a way to kill the measure. More than 170,000 people signed a petition backing the initiative, which would define marriage in Massachusetts as the union of a man and a woman. It would need the approval of only 50 of the 200 legislators during the current session, then again in 2007, to continue to the November 2008 ballot. Opponents of the question, including powerful House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, feared they didn’t have the 151 votes needed to kill the measure and instead called for a vote to recess the joint House-Senate session until Jan. 2. Lawmakers approved the recess vote by 109-87. Since gay marriage became legal, more than 8,000 same-sex couples have tied the knot in Massachusetts, the only state to allow gay marriage. The ballot measure would ban future gay marriages in Massachusetts but leave existing ones intact. Romney, who opted not to run for a second term as governor this year, is nearing a decision on whether to seek the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

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