Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Final Action" on Marriage Amendment is Every Legislator's Constitutional Duty

Media reports-including statements by House Majority Leader John Rogers-imply that "killing" the Protection of Marriage Amendment (Constitutional Convention Calendar Item #20) through "procedural maneuvers" is constitutional. In fact, it is not.

The Massachusetts Constitution makes it clear and several Supreme Judicial Court decisions affirm that "final action" is required on qualified initiative petition such as the Protection of Marriage Amendment. Only a full, fair, up or down vote qualifies as "final action" for an amendment. Be sure your legislators uphold their duty to vote on the Protection of Marriage Amendment.
This message must get through to them, so they know what is required by their oath of office.
Tell your Legislators: You have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. That oath includes your duty to take final action on the Protection of Marriage Amendment.
Section two of Article 48 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth provides that qualified initiative petitions "shall" be presented to a joint session [constitutional convention]. That same Article calls for "final legislative action" on such qualified petitions.
As long ago as 1935 and as recently as 2002, the, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has affirmed this provision.
In 1935, the SJC stated that the initiative of Article 48 is imperative, and declared that the joint session "must take final action." The Court stated, "The mandate is that the joint session shall continue from time to time until final action is taken." Opinion of the Justices to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 291 Mass 578, 586 (1935).
In 2002, the SJC confirmed that a joint session "must act on the proposed amendments" by the end of the current term. The Court declared that the joint session 7/17/02 adjournment vote was not final action. Opinion of the Justices to the Acting Governor, SJC-08916 (December 20, 2002).

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