Saturday, May 17, 2014

Marriage equality in the United State — Ten years on

Today is the tenth anniversary of marriages starting in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, after the ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. I remember the wait between the November 18, 2003 decision and its actual implementation in May as being interminable. The longest six months in history; it easily lasted several years. Is it May yet?

I remember poring over the decision of the court as soon as it was released. In May, I found myself wishing I had an excuse to be in Cambridge as the marriages started.

On this tenth anniversary, I made a point to took at the decision again. Chief Justice Marshall started it with the words:
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the Commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry. We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.
In the ten years that follow, other states have "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples," and several states have through electoral processes extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Ten years ago, there was just one state where a same-sex couple could get married. Now there are seventeen. Ten years ago, marriage equality seemed distant in most states. Now the barriers for same-sex couples seem to be crumbling even in the states that most strongly oppose rights for gay and bisexual people.

I think by the fifteenth anniversary of the marriages starting in Massachusetts, we will see marriage equality throughout the land.
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