BOSTON – Massachusetts' (search) highest court was to hear a bid Monday to halt same-sex couples from marrying until voters can weigh in on the contentious issue.
A lawsuit filed by C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts (search), claims the marriages interfere with voters' ability to participate in the debate on a proposed constitutional ban of same-sex marriages.
Around 5,000 same-sex couples have married in the state since the Supreme Judicial Court (search) issued its landmark 4-3 ruling in November 2003 allowing gay marriage. The ruling took effect in May 2004.
In March 2004, the state Legislature approved a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. Lawmakers must pass the measure a second time, either this year or next, before it can reach the statewide ballot in November 2006.
"What we're saying is that the dialogue, the robust debate that should be taking place, is being affected and shaped by the continuing marriages," Doyle's attorney, Chester Darling, said Sunday.
Justice Roderick Ireland rejected Doyle's petition last year but the full court is hearing his appeal.
Lawyers for Doyle, Attorney General Thomas Reilly's office and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders are to deliver oral arguments before the court Monday.
GLAD argues that Doyle has failed to show exactly how issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples interferes with his ability to vote.
"The right of gay and lesbian couples to marry poses absolutely no harm to Mr. Doyle, the Catholic Action League or anybody else," said GLAD attorney Michele Granda.
Ireland, one of four judges who voted to legalize gay marriage, said in his earlier ruling rejecting Doyle's petition that same-sex couples shouldn't be denied the right to marry based on the mere possibility that voters will approve a ban.