By Peter J. Smith
UNITED STATES, May 9, 2007 ( – For Republican primary candidate Mitt Romney, the event that vaulted him upon the national stage still haunts family advocates.

On November 18, 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled by a narrow 4-3 majority in Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health that denying the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples violated the state constitution.

“We declare that barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution,” the court ruled, giving the Massachusetts Legislature “180 days to permit the Legislature to take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion.”

Many conservatives including Pat Buchannan, professor Hadley Arkes of Amherst College, and Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel repeatedly urged Gov. Romney to ignore the SJC ruling, since the state constitution (esp. Part I, Article XXX) explicitly denied the SJC any power to craft laws or even strike them down with the power of judicial review. In fact the SJC constitutionally only occupies an advisory role to the Massachusetts Legislature.

However instead of ignoring the ruling, Gov. Romney took the initiative to enforce the Goodridge decision as law after the Legislature neglected to act on the SJC’s ultimatum. On April 16, 2004, Romney declared that marriage licenses would be changed from husband/wife to PartyA/PartyB and town clerks would undergo special training sessions. Romney’s move was seen by pro-family advocates, such as Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, as directly enabling same-sex “marriage.”

“It’s my opinion that as governor he did not have to pursue the course of following the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling until and unless the Legislature acted,” Staver told “He went out and ordered the licenses to be changed, and in fact that’s not his duty. His duty was to abide by the Legislature.”

“If the Legislature didn’t act to change the statute, then I don’t think the governor should have intervened to change the marriage policy,” said Staver.

Staver also criticized Romney not only for enforcing the SJC’s decision without the Legislature’s consent, but for trampling on the consciences and religious freedom of Justices of the Peace opposed to same-sex “marriage.” Justices were told they must either resign or perform same-sex “marriages” and at least one Justice of the Peace, Linda Gray Kelley, resigned for religious reasons.

Staver insists “the fact is the statutes were not and have not to this day been modified. So the governor actually participated in my opinion in advancing same-sex ‘marriage.'”

“He may have a sound reason for doing what he did, under the belief that he had to,” Staver told “But I think when it comes to the issue of marriage, extraordinary effort needs to be done to preserve that institution and I don’t believe under the current law there in Massachusetts, he had to advance same-sex “marriage” by issuing an executive order to do so.”

Mitt Romney did seek to block the advance of same-sex “marriage” into other states by enforcing a little known statute from 1913 prohibiting marriages that would be illegal in other states. However, the statute now faces repeal by Romney’s successor Gov. Deval Patrick and pro-homosexual lawmakers.

Before Romney declared his candidacy, Matt Barber of Concerned Women for America wrote in an editorial that conservatives have only 3 choices to believe about Romney: “He acted either because he furtively supported the concept of ‘gay marriage,’ he was frightened by the paper tiger’s big pointy teeth, or because he erroneously, but honestly believed he was compelled to do so.”

For Mitt Romney, his claim to fame may prove one of his biggest obstacles to establishing himself as a strong candidate for President.