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Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health
|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|
In a 50-page, 4-3 ruling delivered on November 18th, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that Massachusetts may not "deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry" because of a clause in the state's constitution that prohibits "the creation of second-class citizens." The legislature was given 180 days to change the law to rectify the situation.
On February 4th, 2004, the four-justice majority of the court clarified its ruling at the request of the state legislature. Stating that, "the history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal," the court opinion said that nothing short of equal marriage rights would be constitutional. In response to legislative efforts to construct a system of civil unions like that of Vermont, the court said that such unions would create an "unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples."
Republican Governor Mitt Romney promptly released a statement in support of a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts state constitution defining marriage as existing only between "one man and one woman." His statement said, "the people of Massachusetts should not be excluded from a decision as fundamental to our society as the definition of marriage." However, because such an amendment could not possibly be passed before 2006, the ruling will become the state's law until then.
Under the Full Faith and Credit clause of the United States Constitution, this ruling could mean that other states, including those among the 38 that have passed laws referred to as "Defense of Marriage Acts" (similar to the federal DOMA), may be forced to grant equivalent rights to those same-sex couples, who began getting married in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004.
The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment could possibly negate the ruling, and the marriages it will allow, but that would most likely be ruled upon by future decisions by one or more federal courts.
- Unofficial synopsis and text of the decision from the Massachusetts court system website.
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