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Romney asks for special counsel to stop gay marriage

BOSTON -- Running out of time and options, Gov. Mitt Romney said Thursday he will seek emergency legislation to appoint a special counsel that would ask the state's highest court to delay its ruling on gay marriage, which are scheduled to become legal in Massachusetts on May 17.

 

The legislation "will allow me to protect the integrity of the constitutional process," Romney said.

Democratic Attorney General Thomas Reilly last month rejected the Republican governor's request to seek a stay from the Supreme Judicial Court until November 2006, when voters may have a chance to weigh in on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and legalizing civil unions.

The man Romney hopes to tap is retired state Supreme Judicial Court Justice Joseph R. Nolan, who has called the court's November ruling legalizing gay marriage an "abomination."

Romney wants the court to stay its decision an additional 2.5 years, until voters have had an opportunity to weigh in on a constitutional amendment -- approved by the Legislature last month-- that would ban gay marriage and legalize civil unions.

The attorney general, as the state's chief legal officer, determines legal policy for the commonwealth.

"This would be an unprecedented intrusion on the attorney general's authority," said attorney Robert Sherman, who served as counsel to former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. "I think that for the governor not to respect the separate lines of authority that have been created within the executive branch does not bring credit to him."

Any legislation to stop gay marriage would likely face an uphill battle in the state Senate, where 22 of the 40 members last month voted against a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and legalize civil unions if approved by voters in November 2006.

Even Senate President Robert Travaglini, D-Boston, who supported that amendment, has said there is little appetite in the chamber to block gay marriages on May 17.

"This strikes me as a Hail Mary pass at best," attorney Paul Martinek, editor of Lawyers Weekly USA. "It's an extreme measure to try to get the court to do something that it's probably not going to do anyway."

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