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December 27, 2006

Top Mass. Court Finds Something It Cannot Do

Despite claiming the power to reinterpret the state's constitution in a manner contrary to the intent of the drafters and to legislate from the bench to create homosexual marriage, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has finally found something it lacks the power to do under that constitution -- require the legislature to follow it.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that it had no authority to order the Legislature to vote on a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage, but the justices gave Governor Mitt Romney a symbolic victory by scolding lawmakers for shirking "their lawful obligations."

The SJC, the same court which legalized gay marriage in 2004, issued the unanimous 11-page ruling this morning in response to a lawsuit spearheaded by Romney, who is expected to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination as a social conservative.

The justices wrote that all the legislators took an oath to uphold the Constitution and will "ultimately will have to answer to the people who elected them."

Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Governor Mitt Romney, hailed the ruling as vindication for the plaintiffs even though the court dismissed the suit.

"We are very pleased that the court has confirmed once and for all that the Legislature has a constitutional duty to vote on the marriage amendment and that any failure to do so would be a violation of their oaths of office," Fehrnstrom said.

Interesting, isn't it, that the judges here find a violation of the constitution with no remedy, while a couple of years back they found a remedy with no actual violation of that constitution. I guess that their activism does have limits -- and those limits are exceeded when it might allow the people of Massachusetts to vote in a non-liberal manner.

UPDATE -- 12/31/06: An interesting piece on the topic from Opinion Journal.com.

The petitioners sued the legislature for abrogating its constitutional duty, and the state Supreme Judicial Court took the case. In its ruling last week, it agreed that the legislature's duty to vote on the measure was "unambiguous." But it claimed to be powerless to compel a vote. So the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, whose own arrogation of power created this mess, has suddenly discovered the limits of its power to clean it up.

All in all, this is quite the political spectacle. First judges usurp the power of the legislature to dictate their own social policy. Then the legislature uses a procedural ruse to deny voters a say on the gay-marriage issue. And these are some of the same people who say Iraqis aren't ready for democracy.

Have we reached the point where the federal government can intervene on the grounds that Massachusetts no longer has a functioning "republican form of government"?





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