VoteOnMarriage.org Files Suit Against 109 Massachusetts Legislators for Failing to Vote on the Marriage Amendment
Contact: Lisa Barstow, 617-480-1719 for VoteOnMarriage.org; Greg Scott, 480-710-1965 for Alliance Defense Fund
BOSTON, Dec. 13 /Christian Newswire/ -- VoteOnMarriage.org – the campaign to allow the people to decide on the definition of marriage in Massachusetts – today filed suit against 109 Massachusetts legislators in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Massachusetts for violating the constitutional rights of Massachusetts citizens by intentionally refusing to vote on a citizen initiative amendment on the definition of marriage.
Represented by Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), VoteOnMarriage.org seeks to hold those legislators who have refused to obey the constitution, individually and financially accountable for violating the rights of Massachusetts citizens.
"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, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and spokesman, VoteOnMarriage.org.
Without legal intervention or a clear up or down vote by the legislature prior to the end of the legislative session on January 2, 2007, the marriage amendment--brought forward by 170,000 citizens--will expire. The legislature will reconvene in Constitutional Convention on January 2 where observers believe debate on the marriage amendment will be filibustered until the clock runs out. 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.
Senate President Robert Travaglini controls the rostrum during the convention and as such has sole discretion as to who is recognized to make motions or to debate. 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.
"We are asking the Massachusetts legislature to fulfill its responsibility to the citizens of Massachusetts, to follow the constitution they have sworn to uphold and to vote on the marriage amendment," said Glen Lavy, Senior Counsel, and Senior Vice President for marriage litigation, ADF. "If they do not, then they will be held accountable for deliberately violating the law."
The suit is comprised of four causes of action and seeks equitable relief and damages. Plaintiffs include VoteOnMarriage.org and 10 individuals who signed the marriage petition. The causes of action are:
- violation of plaintiffs' rights to free speech pursuant to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution;
- violation of plaintiffs' rights to petition the government pursuant to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution;
- violation of plaintiffs' fundamental rights to vote pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and
- violation of plaintiffs' rights to procedural due process pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
VoteOnMarriage.org and co-plaintiffs ask the court to:
- declare that the defendants have violated the US Constitution as stated in the four causes of action;
- waive the defendants' ability to oppose the initiative in the 2006 constitutional convention and rule that the votes to recess on November 9 are to be counted as votes in favor of the amendment; and
- force the defendants to refund to VoteonMarriage.org the money expended on the campaign, plus punitive damages in an amount determined by a jury.
"The arrogance of the legislators is why we seek punitive damages," Mr. Lavy added.
Tom Shields, chairman, the Coalition for Marriage and Family, an umbrella organization backing the marriage amendment said, "We support this suit because it will restore the integrity of the citizen initiative process and put its power back in the hands of 'we the people'– not an elitist legislature."
Glen Lavy, senior counsel and senior vice president for Marriage Litigation of ADF, will serve as lead attorney. Mr. Lavy joined ADF in 2001 and previously was engaged private practice. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School. While there, Mr. Lavy served as an Executive Editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.
Visit www.VoteOnMarriage.org for a link to the full complaint.