IMAGE: David Vaughan of Boston, who supports same-sex marriage, holds a sign surrounded by opponents Monday at the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.
Chitose Suzuki  /  AP
David Vaughan of Boston, who supports same-sex marriage, holds a sign surrounded by opponents Monday at the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.
updated 3/30/2004 7:43:28 PM ET 2004-03-31T00:43:28

Gov. Mitt Romney ran into resistance from his attorney general Tuesday after arguing that gay marriage should be put on hold for at least another 2½ years now that lawmakers have backed a ban on same-sex weddings.

Legislators approved a constitutional amendment Monday that would ban gay marriages while legalizing civil unions. If passed a second time during the next session, the measure would go before voters in November 2006.

But under a landmark decision by the Supreme Judicial Court in November, gay marriages are scheduled to begin in Massachusetts on May 17.

Minutes after the amendment’s approval, the first-term Republican governor called on Democratic Attorney General Tom Reilly to ask the state’s highest court to delay same-sex marriage until after citizens get a chance to vote on the amendment.

Attorney general adamant
Reilly refused, arguing that the court had made itself clear in November and in an advisory opinion in February.

“The arguments the governor makes are political arguments,” said Reilly, who is viewed as a possible gubernatorial opponent in 2006. “The governor’s job is to implement the law of the state, and I expect him to do that.”

Romney reiterated his request Tuesday, asking Reilly to appoint a special assistant attorney general to handle the request if the attorney general himself was unwilling.

“It’s not right that the governor and people of Massachusetts are left without recourse to the courts,” the governor said. “The people of Massachusetts have a right to have the same level of time and respect that the plaintiffs have.”

Several experts said Romney has no power to circumvent Reilly.

“The law in Massachusetts is clear that the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the commonwealth,” said Boston attorney Robert Sherman, who served as special counsel to Reilly’s predecessor. “It’s the attorney general who makes the decision and not the governor.”

Romney could potentially sue the attorney general’s office, arguing that Reilly does not have the legal power to deny his request. Similar lawsuits have been filed in the past but have been rejected by the Supreme Judicial Court.

Attention now turns to the May 17 deadline and the fall elections, when lawmakers will have to defend their votes on the divisive social issue. All 200 legislative seats are up for election in November, and the amendment was approved Monday with only four votes to spare.

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