One hundred eighty days ago, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision in Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health:
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.
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We construe civil marriage to mean the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others. This reformulation redresses the plaintiffs' constitutional injury and furthers the aim of marriage to promote stable, exclusive relationships. It advances the two legitimate State interests the department has identified: providing a stable setting for child rearing and conserving State resources. It leaves intact the Legislature's broad discretion to regulate marriage.
In their complaint the plaintiffs request only a declaration that their exclusion and the exclusion of other qualified same-sex couples from access to civil marriage violates Massachusetts law. We declare that barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution. We vacate the summary judgment for the department. We remand this case to the Superior Court for entry of judgment consistent with this opinion. Entry of judgment shall be stayed for 180 days to permit the Legislature to take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion..
The 180 days have passed, with lots of bickering, jawboning and legal fooferaw - today, lead plaintiffs Hillary and Julie Goodridge were married at the Beacon Street world headquarters of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Rev. William Sinkford, President of the UUA, performed the ceremony.
I've seen several commentators note that the SJC stayed the Goodridge ruling's effectiveness until the fiftieth anniversary of Brown, and I've seen lots of arguments about whether same-sex marriage bans are as illegitmately discriminatory as were anti-miscegenation statutes and other forms of racial discrimination. I haven't seen anybody note that Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, who wrote the Goodridge decision, grew up in South Africa during the apartheid years. You don't suppose that her experiences with that sort of virulent and irrational discrimination had any bearing on her decision, do you?