|Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health|
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
| Argued March 4, 2003|
Decided November 18, 2003
|The denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated provisions of the state constitution guaranteeing individual liberty and equality, and was not rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Superior Court of Massachusetts at Suffolk vacated and remanded.|
|Mass. Const. arts. 1, 6, 7, and 10, and Part II, c. 1, § 1, art. 4; Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 207|
Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, Case citation 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003), was a landmark state appellate court case dealing with same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
In a 50-page, 4-3 ruling delivered on November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that the state may not "deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry." Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, writing for the majority, wrote that the state's constitution "affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals" and "forbids the creation of second-class citizens" and that the state had no "constitutionally adequate reason" for denying marriage to same-sex couples. On the legal aspect, instead of creating a new fundamental right to marry, or more accurately the right to choose to marry, the Court held that the State does not have a rational basis to deny same-sex couples from marriage on the grounds of due process and equal protection.
The court gave the State Legislature 180 days to change the law to rectify the situation.
Political response Edit
Republican Governor Mitt Romney responded by releasing a statement in support of a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts state constitution defining marriage as existing only between "one man and one woman" in order to overrule the court's decision. His statement said, "the people of Massachusetts should not be excluded from a decision as fundamental to our society as the definition of marriage." This message was taken up by VoteOnMarriage.org but their initiative failed.
The legislature engaged in a contentious debate about how and whether to propose an amendment to the state's constitution in response to Goodridge. Some legislators wanted to create a system of civil unions, some wanted a ban on civil unions, some wanted a ban on same-sex marriage, and some wanted to do nothing (in other words, to let the court's decision stand). A joint session of the State legislature convened near the end of the 2003-2004 session to discuss Goodridge. After a dramatic, sometimes chaotic, multi-sided debate, a narrow majority of legislators approved a compromise constitutional amendment proposal, prohibiting same-sex marriage but simultaneously creating a system of civil unions for same-sex couples. Massachusetts law requires that a legislative amendment be approved by a joint session in 2 consecutive sessions, and the same proposal failed during the 2005-2006 session, and hence was not put before voters in the November 2006 election.
Reaction outside MassachusettsEdit
Although marriages in the United States are typically valid across state lines, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, along with similar laws in 38 other states, means that other states may not be required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts, although some legal scholars argue that such marriages must be recognized under the "full faith and credit" clause of the federal Constitution. Because the United States Supreme Court has not directly ruled on this question, the legal status of Massachusetts marriages in other states is uncertain.
Subsequent separation of the Goodridges Edit
Two of the original plaintiffs in the case, the couple that the case is named after and cited by, Julie and Hillary Goodridge, subsequently amicably separated in July 2006, according to their spokesperson.
- ↑ Boston Globe article about failure of legislative amendment
- ↑ Levenson, Michael. "After 2 years, same-sex marriage icons split up: Were plaintiffs in landmark case", Boston Globe, Boston Globe, July 21 2006. Retrieved on 2007-06-08.
- ↑ Zezima, Katie. "Same-Sex Marriage Plaintiffs Separate", New York Times, July 22 2006, pp. A11. Retrieved on 2007-06-07.
- ↑ Rosenberg, Eva. TAXWATCH: Same-sex Couples Face Complex Questions When Doing Their Taxes Marketwatch/Dow Jones February 9 2007. Retrieved March 16 2007. (See near the end of the article, in the section "Divorce disasters")
- Unofficial synopsis and text of the decision from the Massachusetts court system website.
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