Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Sunday he would ask the state's highest court to intervene to let voters decide on a proposal to ban gay marriage in the only U.S. state where it is legal.
"This week we will file an action before the courts calling upon the judiciary to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens," Romney, a potential Republican presidential contender in 2008, told a rally organized by opponents of gay marriage.
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, a conservative Christian organization that opposes gay marriage, said his group would also file lawsuits seeking to put the measure to the ballot.
Lawmakers in the state's Democrat-controlled legislature earlier this month dealt a huge blow to opponents of gay marriage when they adjourned without voting on a constitutional amendment that would have helped pave the way for the ballot question in 2008.
Romney, a vocal critic of gay marriage, plans to ask the state's Supreme Judicial Court, which legalized gay marriage, to order Massachusetts' secretary of the commonwealth to put the amendment on the ballot, his spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said Sunday.
Roughly 8,000 same sex couples have wed in the state since they got the right in 2004, but opponents of gay marriage say the issue should be up to voters to decide.
Speaking from the steps of the city's historic gold-domed statehouse, Romney, who is retiring and will be replaced by a Democratic governor in January, addressed nearly 5,000 people demonstrating for and against same sex marriage, according to state police estimates.
"It is an embarrassment that this governor is using the steps of the state house to promote bigotry and to promote his own presidential campaign because that is all this is. It is flat-out, unadulterated opportunism," said Boston resident Robyn Ochs.
In order for the proposal to ban gay marriage to get on the ballot in 2008, 25 percent of Massachusetts' 200-member Legislature would have to approve the measure in the current legislative session and one more time before the general election in 2008.
The Legislature returns on Jan. 2, the last day of the session, but it is not expected to consider the amendment.