An anti-same-sex marriage group in Massachusetts is suing the state in a federal court seeking as much as $5 million in damages from lawmakers for blocking a final vote on the proposed constitutional amendment last month.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court by VoteOnMarriage.org, argues the 109 lawmakers violated the supporters’ rights to free speech, to petition the government and to due process under the law.

“The evidence is overwhelming that those in the Massachusetts legislature who continue to recess the Constitutional Convention are doing so in an illegal effort to kill the marriage amendment by violating the state constitution,” said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and spokesman VoteOnMarriage.org.

According to the Associated Press, the group is asking the court to interpret the vote to recess a joint meeting of the House and Senate as a vote in favour of the amendment, even though many lawmakers said the vote was designed to kill the amendment.

Opponents feared they didn’t have the 151 votes needed to kill the measure and called for the vote to recess.

The Legislature is scheduled to take up the question again on January 2 2007, the last day of the session. Supporters fear lawmakers will again avoid taking a vote, killing the proposal.

“We are asking the Massachusetts legislature to fulfil its responsibility to the citizens of Massachusetts, to follow the constitution they have sworn to uphold and to vote on the marriage amendment,” said Glen Lavy, Senior Counsel, and Senior Vice President for marriage litigation, ADF.

“If they do not, then they will be held accountable for deliberately violating the law.”

The suit seeks $500,000 from the lawmakers for the cost of the group’s legal battles and another $5 million in punitive damages. The damages would be split 109 ways, and lawmakers would be held personally liable.

“We would like to put an end to the Massachusetts Legislature thumbing its nose at citizen initiatives,” Lavy’s statement continues. ” “The arrogance of the legislators is why we seek punitive damages.”

Lavy told the AP he didn’t expect a ruling before January. He called the request that the court interpret votes to recess as votes in favour of the amendment “a unique request for relief” and acknowledged it was a long shot.

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