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18.11.03

Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules...

This is from The Washington Post which reported today that the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state cannot ban gay marriages. I'm very, very pleased with this ruling. Now I can just hope that the NJ Supreme Court does the same thing, since I'm from NJ and I'd be very embarassed if they decided the other way.

Massachusetts Court: State Wrong to Ban Gay Marriage
By Fred Barbash
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 18, 2003; 1:18 PM

Massachusetts' highest court today invalidated a state ban on same-sex marriages, ruling that the right to marry is "the right to marry the person of one's choice," regardless of gender.

It stopped short of immediately legalizing same-sex marriages, however, referring the issue to the Massachusetts legislature for action "appropriate" in light of the ruling.

By a 4-3 vote, the state's Supreme Judicial Court said Massachusetts was violating its state constitution by denying the "legal, financial and social benefits of marriage" to people of the same sex who wish to marry.

It rejected the state's chief argument in favor of the ban: that the purpose of marriage is "procreation." That, the court concluded, is largely a cover for "persistent prejudices" against homosexuals.

It then took the extraordinary step of redefining the common law definition of marriage in Massachusetts.

Marriage, under the law, is not merely a union between a man and a woman, the court said.

Rather, it is "the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others."

It is a "civil right," Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall wrote for the court, guaranteed by the state constitution's commitment to "the dignity and equality of all individuals."

Marshall left no doubt that the court expected conformance by the legislature. The "marriage ban," she wrote for the court, "works a deep and scarring hardship . . . for no rational reason."

The legislature, however, is free to amend the state constitution to overrule today's decision. There was some speculation today that a battle over a state constitutional amendment would be the next step in the Massachusetts controversy.

The ruling is similar to a 1999 Vermont Supreme Court decision, which led to its legislature's approval in 2000 of civil unions that give couples many same benefits of marriage.

The Massachusetts decision went further, however, by adhering to the concept of "marriage" alone. Marriages are recognizable across state lines. Civil unions are not.

Courts in Hawaii and Alaska have previously ruled that the states did not have a right to deny marriage to gay couples, but those decisions were overturned by the adoption of state constitutional amendments.

Gary Buseck, executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the seven couples who sued the state seeking the right to marry were "ecstatic" over the decision, which he called "a flat out victory," the Associated Press reported.



posted by Lauren@ 5:42 PM

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