The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts began to hear views yesterday over calls from some groups to debate banning gay marriage in a 2008 ballot.

Lawyers from the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) against the proposal from Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said: “Our state constitution says there can be no citizen-initiated constitutional amendment that `relates to the reversal of a judicial decision.’”

Gary Buseck, GLAD’s legal director, argued, “The Attorney General simply got it wrong,.

“Our state constitution says there can be no citizen-initiated constitutional amendment that `relates to the reversal of a judicial decision.’ This proposed anti-gay, anti-marriage amendment is meant squarely and solely to reverse the decision in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health that ended marriage discrimination in Massachusetts.”

A lawyer for Mr Reilly’s office, Peter Sacks, said the ballot would not overturn previous marriages, it would adjust the constitution so no more gay marriages would take place.

Massachusetts legalised gay marriage in 2003.