Watch CBSN Live

Gay Marriage Question Spurs Bar Exam Suit

A man said he failed the Massachusetts bar exam because he refused to answer a question about gay marriage and claims in a federal lawsuit the test violated his rights and targeted his religious beliefs.

The suit also challenges the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, which was legalized in Massachusetts in 2003.

Stephen Dunne, who is representing himself in the case and seeks $9.75 million, said the bar exam was not the place for a "morally repugnant and patently offensive" question addressing the rights of two married lesbians, their children and their property. He said he refused to answer the question because he believed it legitimized same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting, which is contrary to his moral beliefs.

Dunne, 30, was denied a license to practice law in May after scoring 268.866 on the exam, just shy of the 270 passing grade.

His lawsuit against the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court also claims the state government is "purposely advancing secular humanism's homosexual agenda."

The "disguised mechanism to screen applicants according to their political ideology has the discriminatory impact of persecuting and oppressing (Dunne's) sincere religious practices and beliefs" protected by the First Amendment, and was "invasive and burdensome," according to the lawsuit filed last month.

Dunne's telephone number was unlisted. He told the Boston Herald he has a law degree from a Boston law school and is attending a Boston business school.

Officials with the state bar would not say how much the questions are worth or how the tests are scored, and the court also declined to comment.

David Yas, editor of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, said the suit was "idiotic" and that Dunne was "completely missing the point about what it means to be a lawyer."

"Knowing the law has nothing to do with agreeing with the law," he said. Yas said if Dunne really believed the question was improper, he should "answer the question correctly, get your law degree and use it to argue for what you believe in."

Lee Swislow, executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said Dunne is trying to use a legal question to advance a political agenda.

"The bar exam was a test of whether he knew how to apply domestic relations law, and he refused to answer," she said. "Now he's suing, and I think that makes him a loser."