updated 6/29/2004 5:19:38 PM ET 2004-06-29T21:19:38

A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected an attempt by conservative groups and state lawmakers to stop same-sex marriages in Massachusetts.

The Liberty Counsel, the Florida-based group that launched the lawsuit on behalf of Robert Largess, vice president of the Catholic Action League, and 11 state lawmakers, said it would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs had argued that Massachusetts’ high court usurped the power of the Legislature and thereby violated the U.S. Constitution when it ruled last year that same-sex couples were entitled to wed.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed Tuesday, saying the appropriate way to contest the state court ruling would be to amend the state constitution, a long process that is already under way. The same court had rejected an earlier request by the groups to stop the first marriage licenses from being issued to same-sex couples in May.

Tuesday’s ruling was the latest in a series of defeats for conservative groups in both state and federal courts.

The appeals court said the November 2003 same-sex marriage ruling by Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court did not violate a clause in the U.S. Constitution that calls for a republican form of government in each state.

The only way a state could run afoul of the clause would be to establish a monarchy or take other action that clearly deviated from the republican form of government, the appeals court said.

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