Mass. Court Rejects Bid to Halt Gay Marriage

Times Staff Writer

The same court that made Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay and lesbian marriage dismissed the last legal challenge to such unions Friday.

And New York’s highest court ruled the same day that the village mayor who had defied his state’s law by allowing same-sex couples to marry would face trial.

In Massachusetts, Roman Catholic activist C. Joseph Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, had asked the Supreme Judicial Court to halt same-sex marriage until voters could act on a proposed constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

The measure won preliminary approval last year from the Massachusetts Legislature, but not in time to block the decision by the state’s highest court that allowed same-sex couples to begin marrying on May 17, 2004. The amendment must win legislative approval one more time, in the 2005-2006 session, before it can be put before voters. The earliest that could happen would be November 2006.


Rebuffing Doyle’s lawsuit, the Supreme Judicial Court said same-sex marriage had proceeded smoothly in Massachusetts for a year.

“Nothing has transpired in the interim that materially changes the situation or which warrants the truly extraordinary measures sought now,” the court declared Friday.

More than 6,000 gay and lesbian couples were married in Massachusetts in the first year that such unions were legal.

In Albany, N.Y., the Court of Appeals ruled that New Paltz Mayor Jason West would face 24 misdemeanor counts of violating the state’s domestic relations law by conducting marriages without licenses for same-sex couples in February 2004.

If convicted, West faces fines and up to a year in jail.

His lawyer, E. Joshua Rosenkranz, said: “Mayor West stood up for the constitutional rights of people being treated unfairly and unconstitutionally.”

But Gov. George E. Pataki and state Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer said same-sex marriages violated New York law.

West married two dozen same-sex couples during the same period when San Francisco, as well as cities in Oregon and New Mexico, briefly allowed gays and lesbians to wed. Courts since have nullified those unions.