Massachusetts High Court Rules on Equal Marriage Rights for Gay Couples

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The Massachusetts high court sends a statement to the Massachusetts Senate clarifying it's recent decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that it's unconstitutional for the state to only allow heterosexual couples to marry. According to the court, only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples, not civil unions, would be constitutional.

"Segregating same-sex unions from opposite-sex unions cannot possibly be held rationally to advance or "preserve" what we stated in Goodridge were the Commonwealth's legitimate interests in procreation, child rearing, and the conservation of resources. ...Because the proposed law by its express terms forbids same-sex couples entry into civil marriage, it continues to relegate same-sex couples to a different status.

The holding in Goodridge, by which we are bound, is that group classifications based on unsupportable distinctions, such as that embodied in the proposed bill, are invalid under the Massachusetts Constitution. The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.

In Goodridge, the court acknowledged, as we do here, that "[m]any people hold deep-seated religious, moral, and ethical convictions that marriage should be limited to the union of one man and one woman, and that homosexual conduct is immoral. Many hold equally strong religious, moral, and ethical convictions that same-sex couples are entitled to be married, and that homosexual persons should be treated no differently than their heterosexual neighbors."

The court stated then, and we reaffirm, that the State may not interfere with these convictions, or with the decision of any religion to refuse to perform religious marriages of same-sex couples. These matters of belief and conviction are properly outside the reach of judicial review or government interference.

But neither may the government, under the guise of protecting "traditional" values, even if they be the traditional values of the majority, enshrine in law an invidious discrimination that our Constitution, "as a charter of governance for every person properly within its reach."


GLAD's Mary Bonauto on Marriage Equality

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