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I’ve long been proud of my roots in Massachusetts, one of our most liberal states and a place that has been in forefront of many important social and political movements in our nation’s history – including the one that created our nation in the first place. In my own lifetime, though, I’ve rarely been more proud of Massachusetts than I was ten years ago today: the day the first United States court decision mandating marriage equality was issued right here in Boston. As we appreciate how far things have come in a decade, it's worth taking a look back at how we got there.

Hawaii

By November 18, 2003, marriage equality was an idea that had been percolating for some time. As early as 1990, civil rights pioneers were setting events in motion. That’s when three same-sex applied for marriage licenses at the Hawaii Department of Health and, after the state health director consulted with Hawaii’s Attorney General, had their applications denied. On May 1, 1991, they filed a lawsuit challenging that determination: Baehr v. Lewin. The lawsuit alleged that denying a marriage license on the sole ground that the members of the couple were of the same sex violated the United States Constitution and the Hawaii Constitution (each state’s constitution, in theory, can grant rights wholly independent of the federal constitution; indeed, state courts are final arbiters of the state constitution’s meaning and may interpret a clause differently from how the U.S. Supreme Court interprets an identically-worded clause in the U.S. Constitution, although some state courts are reluctant to so rule).

The trial court dismissed the case and the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court of Hawaii, which ruled in May 1993 (74 Haw. 530) that the state’s refusal to grant marriage licenses to the same-sex couples constituted discrimination on the basis of sex (other courts have rejected this reasoning, arguing that two men would be denied exactly equally to two women). Accordingly, the Hawaii Supreme Court held, the exclusion of same-sex couples could only pass muster under Hawaii’s Equal Protection Clause if it could satisfy the “strict-scrutiny test,” a high bar to meet: the state would bear the burden of establishing that denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples “further[ed] compelling state interests and [was] narrowly drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgments of constitutional rights.” The case was sent back to the original court for trial based upon that standard.

The political response to the court’s ruling was swift. Hawaii’s legislature passed a law restricting civil marriage in the state to one man and one woman, but creating a commission to consider granting certain practical benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. In late 1995 the Commission actually recommended that the legislature open marriage to same-sex couples and that it create as well a comprehensive domestic partnership act to be open to all couples without respect to sex.  Action was not taken on those recommendations right away, but some practical benefits of marriage were extended to same-sex couples in 1997.

The federal reaction was more severe: in 1996 the Republican-led Congress passed (with plenty of Democratic support), and President Bill Clinton signed (to his everlasting shame), the “Defense of Marriage Act,” or DOMA. This ignominious statute, Section 3 of which was struck down earlier this year, provided that the federal government would not recognize same-sex marriages for purposes like federal tax status, and that no state would be required to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in any other state.

Meanwhile, back in court in Honolulu, the trial got underway in 1996 under the name Baehr v. Miike (Lawrence Miike having replaced John Lewin as Hawaii’s Director of Health). The state identified five “compelling state interests” that, in its view, justified excluding same-sex couples from marriage. They were: (1) protecting the health and welfare of children and other persons; (2) fostering procreation within a marital setting; (3) securing or assuring recognition of Hawaii marriages in other jurisdictions; (4) protecting the State's public fisc from the reasonably foreseeable effects of State approval of same-sex marriage in the laws of Hawaii; (5) protecting civil liberties, including the reasonably foreseeable effects of State approval of same-sex marriages, on its citizens.

To my mind, these purported interests were no more compelling in 1996 then they are now. Numbers 1 and 2 are laughable. Number 3 amounts to “we can’t have our own public policy until everyone else is OK with it.” Number 4 says “we have a compelling interest in discriminating because it would cost us money to give same-sex couples ‘married’ tax status.” Number 5 is the trope about religious freedom not to perform same-sex marriages, which has nothing to do with civil marriage.  The trial judge rejected all of these arguments, but stayed his ruling that marriage licenses be issued to otherwise-qualified same-sex couples pending appeal.

While the case was back in the appellate courts, the voters of Hawaii approved a state-constitutional amendment (Article I, Section 23) allowing the legislature to “reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples,” which it had already done. The Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that this amendment defeated the plaintiff’s claims. Marriage equality would not come to Hawaii until last week.

Alaska

A similar situation unfolded in Alaska. In a lawsuit captioned Brause v. Bureau of Vital Statistics (1998 WL 88743), the Alaska Superior Court ruled that the state needed a compelling reason to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples and ordered a trial on the question. The Alaska legislature immediately placed on the ballot an initiative to amend the state constitution to limit marriage to “one man and one woman.” It passed in 1998 with 68% of the vote to become Article I, Section 25 of the Alaska constitution, and the court case was dismissed as a result. Alaska still does not have marriage equality.

Vermont

The next battleground was Vermont, another place where I have deep roots (my grandmother’s ancestors were among the first English settlers in Vermont in the 1760s). A largely tolerant state, Vermont had enacted hate crimes legislation including sexual orientation protections as early as 1990, and had added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination statute in 1992. Previous Vermont court decisions, on issues like adoption, had been favorable to same-sex couples as well.

The Vermont case, Baker v. State of Vermont, however, was dismissed by the trial court on the theory that state law afforded no relief, because marriage statutes clearly excluded same-sex couples. The trial judge further ruled that the statutes were constitutional because they furthered “the link between procreation and child rearing.” The case was appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court, which issued its decision in 1999 (744 A.2d 864).

The state’s high court agreed with the trial judge that Vermont’s marriage statutes were best read to limit marriage to one man and one woman, but found that, read that way, they violated the “Common Benefits Clause” of the Vermont constitution, which requires that “exclusions from publicly-conferred benefits and protections must be ‘premised on an appropriate and overriding public interest.’” As the Hawaii trial court did, the Vermont Supreme Court unanimously rejected the alleged “public interests” suggested by the state, including the one the trial judge had accepted.

The court divided, however, on the question of remedy: a majority directed the legislature to grant same-sex couples “equivalent statutory rights and privileges to male-female couples,” but left the door open for doing so via “domestic partnerships” rather than extending full marriage to those couples. Justice Denise Johnson expressed her disagreement with this remedy, arguing that the court was “abdicating” its duty to declare equal access to marriage the only suitable remedy.

Interestingly, Chief Justice Jeffery Amestoy, writing the majority opinion, cited the Alaska and Hawaii circumstances in defense of his “civil unions” solution, suggesting that going too far would open the court’s decision up to a political backlash as it had in those states and leave same-sex couples worse off. In my view, this is not an appropriate consideration for a judicial opinion. Judges are supposed to say what the law is, not craft decisions for the specific purpose of avoiding a backlash.

In 2000, the Vermont Legislature responded to the Baker decision by instituting civil unions for same-sex couples, but took the opportunity expressly to limit “marriage” to “a man and a woman” for the first time ever. Civil unions supporters faced a tough election season at the polls, but civil unions endured. In 2009 Vermont’s legislature adopted full marriage equality – the first state to do so by legislation rather than court mandate – with no backlash to speak of.

Massachusetts

Which brings us back to Massachusetts. The Massachusetts case, Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health, was filed shortly after civil unions began in Vermont.  The plaintiffs were seven long-established same-sex couples who lived in Massachusetts and had been denied marriage licenses. As in Vermont, the trial judge ruled in favor of the state in 2002.  He cited procreation and child-rearing, as well as “tradition,” as “rational” bases for the legislature’s limitation of marriage to one man and one woman. Note that the “rational basis” test applied by the court is a far easier standard to satisfy than the “strict scrutiny” test required by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

The case was appealed directly to the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), the highest court in Massachusetts. Arguments were held on March 4, 2003. By mid-November word trickled out that the decision would be coming soon. And that’s why, ten years ago today, my attention was focused on the beautiful John Adams Courthouse in Boston’s Pemberton Square.

On November 18, 2003, the court issued its opinion (440 Mass. 309). In a 4-3 decision, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall (a native of South Africa who fought against apartheid and later married the great Constitutional scholar Anthony Lewis) wrote that the case turned on whether Massachusetts “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.”

Chief Justice Marshall concluded that the court need not address whether the trial court should have applied “strict scrutiny,” as the Hawaii Supreme Court had suggested was appropriate, because the state’s purported interests in discrimination did not even satisfy “rational basis” review.

She demolished the “procreation” argument, writing that “[f]ertility is not a condition of marriage, nor is it grounds for divorce. People who have never consummated their marriage, and never plan to, may be and stay married.” Likewise the “optimal setting for child rearing” claim was turned on its head. First, the Chief Justice wrote, allowing same-sex couples to marry did nothing to harm marriage rights for opposite-sex couples. Second, “the task of child rearing for same-sex couples is made infinitely harder by their status as outliers to the marriage laws…It cannot be rational under our laws, and indeed it is not permitted, to penalize children by depriving them of State benefits because the State disapproves of their parents' sexual orientation.”

The Chief Justice paid no attention to arguments that the decision would bring Massachusetts into conflict with other states, writing “We would not presume to dictate how another State should respond to today’s decision. But neither should considerations of comity prevent us from according Massachusetts residents the full measure of protection available under the Massachusetts Constitution. The genius of our Federal system is that each State's Constitution has vitality specific to its own traditions, and…each State is free to address difficult issues of individual liberty in the manner its own Constitution demands.”

The majority opinion further noted that constitutional law’s story is “the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded.” It continued:

Here, the plaintiffs seek only to be married, not to undermine the institution of civil marriage. They do not want marriage abolished. They do not attack the binary nature of marriage, the consanguinity provisions, or any of the other gate-keeping provisions of the marriage licensing law. Recognizing the right of an individual to marry a person of the same sex will not diminish the validity or dignity of opposite-sex marriage, any more than recognizing the right of an individual to marry a person of a different race devalues the marriage of a person who marries someone of her own race. If anything, extending civil marriage to same-sex couples reinforces the importance of marriage to individuals and communities. That same-sex couples are willing to embrace marriage's solemn obligations of exclusivity, mutual support, and commitment to one another is a testament to the enduring place of marriage in our laws and in the human spirit.
The majority opinion further stated, “The marriage ban works a deep and scarring hardship on a very real segment of the community for no rational reason. The absence of any reasonable relationship between, on the one hand, an absolute disqualification of same-sex couples who wish to enter into civil marriage and, on the other, protection of public health, safety, or general welfare, suggests that the marriage restriction is rooted in persistent prejudices against persons who are (or who are believed to be) homosexual.” The state’s marriage law, as currently written, “confers an official stamp of approval on the destructive stereotype that same-sex relationships are inherently unstable and inferior to opposite-sex relationships and are not worthy of respect.”

The court stayed the implementation of its ruling for 180 days to allow the state legislature to “take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion.” The 180 days, in my opinion, was no accident: it set a deadline of May 17, 2004, the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring public school segregation unconstitutional.

In Massachusetts, unlike in the federal courts, the legislature may ask the state courts for an advisory opinion. In this case, it did so, asking the SJC whether a civil unions law, like the one in Vermont, would satisfy the state constitution. Marriage equality advocates had been ready for that one.  Lead attorney Mary Bonauto of the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), which had litigated the Vermont case as well, had emphasized in the Massachusetts litigation the inherent value of marriage itself, in terms of dignity and equality, rather than the practical benefits like preferential tax treatment.

Responding to those arguments, the Massachusetts SJC (by the same 4-3 split) issued its Opinion of the Justices to the Senate (440 Mass. 1201) on February 3, 2004. The court concluded that nothing short of full marriage equality would do: “The dissimilitude between the terms ‘civil marriage’ and ‘civil union’ is not innocuous; it is a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex, largely homosexual, couples to second-class status…For no rational reason the marriage laws of the Commonwealth discriminate against a defined class; no amount of tinkering with language will eradicate that stain.”

The Massachusetts court had gone where the Vermont court dared not to go. The legislature complied, amending the state marriage statutes to include same-sex couples, and the first same-sex marriages in the United States were performed all across Massachusetts on May 17, 2004. The sky did not fall. God did not punish Massachusetts. Hell, the Red Sox won the World Series that fall for the first time in 86 years that fall.

Developments After Goodridge

That’s not to say there was no backlash. President George W. Bush mentioned the issue in his State of the Union address in January 2004 and in February lent his support to a “Defense of Marriage” amendment to the United States Constitution. Numerous states  placed constitutional amendments to limit marriage to one man and one woman on the ballot; social conservatives came out in droves to support these initiatives, and the issue may have cost Massachusetts’s own John Kerry the presidency in 2004.

There was some degree of backlash here at home too. Our then-Governor, Mitt Romney (his election in the annus horribilius of 2002 is NOT a moment in Massachusetts history I’m proud of, but we usually learn from our mistakes), came out strong against same-sex marriage, saying publicly that the state would be better off with the anti-gay bigot running the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade as Chief Justice of the SJC. He sided with the protestors who came out regularly to the steps of the State House, and those who twice tried to amend our state constitution (a harder thing to do here than in many Western states) to overrule the SJC’s decision.

There are two ways to amend the Massachusetts constitution, and opponents tried each. First, an amendment can pass both houses of the legislature by majority vote in two successive sessions, then must be approved by the people in a referendum. A coalition of hostile and skittish legislators first tried a compromise that amended the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, but allowed civil unions. It passed the legislature in 2004, but failed in 2005.  

Opponents next tried an outright ban on same-sex marriage that did not mention civil unions at all. By collecting the requisite amount of signatures, they lowered the threshold in the legislature to just 25% of the combined houses. Again, it “passed” once but failed on the second go-round in June 2007, by a vote of 45 for and 151 against. In the interim, several legislators who’d fought same-sex marriage were voted out: here, people had seen over two years that the earth did not open up and swallow opposite-sex couples, and the backlash went the other way. And State Rep. Marty Walsh of Dorchester (elected Mayor of Boston two weeks ago), despite representing a district lukewarm on the issue at best, did heroic work cajoling fellow legislators to vote “no.”

We had other things to tackle, like repealing a 1913 law that did prohibited non-resident couples who would not be allowed to marry in their state of residence from marrying here. This law, designed to prevent Massachusetts from becoming a forum of choice for interracial marriages prohibited in Southern states, was used by the Romney administration to restrict same-sex marriages here to Massachusetts residents. But outright repeal of marriage equality has not been an issue here since the second attempted amendment was killed in the legislature in June 2007.

And, you know what, the Red Sox won the World Series AGAIN in 2007. And this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA, and our Attorney General, Martha Coakley, had taken the lead on challenging it in the courts, the Red Sox won the World Series AGAIN. I’m starting to see a pattern here.

As we all know by now, the tide has turned on this issue. Section 3 of DOMA is gone, and marriage equality is the law not only in Massachusetts, but in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, California, Washington state, and Hawaii. And two Mexican States, Canada, Iceland, England, Wales, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Public opinion moves more in favor, and more jurisdictions adopt marriage equality each year.

The idea of marriage equality may not have been born ten years ago today in Massachusetts, but it took a huge step forward when the Goodridge decision was released. And for that I’m proud.

Originally posted to fenway49 on Mon Nov 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM PST.

Also republished by Kossacks for Marriage Equality, Massachusetts Kosmopolitans, Remembering LGBT History, These Green Mountains, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

    by fenway49 on Mon Nov 18, 2013 at 11:12:52 AM PST

  •  Chief Justice Marshall was on fire (5+ / 0-)

    I encourage anyone who hasn't read it to go read Goodridge v. DPH in its entirety -- it's very readable, incredibly vehement in its statements, and just beautiful.   Pretty enough to be an oft-used wedding reading -- we did so, partly as a show of solidarity, but partly just because it was one of the nicest summations of the importance of the institution of marriage I'd run into.  

  •  I'll never forget where I was when the (8+ / 0-)

    Goodridgedecision came down, or at least when we knew about it: I was sitting in the office of St. John's Church, on Bowdoin Street--about a block from the State House--and we had ourselves a little celebration. At that time, including me, our staff was four to one LGBT to straight and the congregation well over half LGBT.

    I'll never forget being in the heart of Boston on that day, and at an institution that had supported the rights of LGBT persons to dignity and even marriage for decades.

    We often forget that just like in the African-American civil rights movements of previous decades, churches--especially Episcopal and other churches--have long been allies and even centers of organization for the civil and human rights of LGBT persons.

    •  The moment that sticks for me was the night of (4+ / 0-)

      May 16 and 17, 2004. Cambridge City Hall opened at the stroke of midnight so the township could be the first to legally conduct a same sex marriage. I was living in an apartment in Cambridgeport about a half mile away at the time. I could hear joyous screaming that entire night. My wife and I actually got married at the building when we got married in secret (ah, insurance.) Such fond memories.

      The third floor of Cambridge City Hall contains an elegant public meeting room that was a perfectly fitting venue for that occasion, and our occasion. :-)

      As to the Goodrich opinion itself, My wife acts a celebrant for maybe 10 to 15 weddings a year. She has found that the passage from the opinion about the importance of marriage is one of the most popular wedding readings among her couples, along with the Velveteen Rabbit and the like.

  •  yay Massachusetts (6+ / 0-)

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Nov 18, 2013 at 04:15:47 PM PST

  •  And amazingly straight marriages have survived as (5+ / 0-)

    well in Massachusetts. :)

    The Mrs and I celebrated our 10th this year.

    •  Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate (7+ / 0-)

      in the nation.

      •  unfortunately few know This. (5+ / 0-)

        Too bad...it is a direct blow to their arguments.

      •  commonmass, why do you suppose that is? (3+ / 0-)

        It's intriguing. I read somewhere that the red states have the highest divorce rate. Why?

        I think such statistics should be more widely disseminated.

        "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

        by Diana in NoVa on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 06:36:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My guess is demographics and finances: (4+ / 0-)

          Highly educated population, people marry later, and it's very expensive to get divorced especially since housing is at a premium--expensive, and difficult to come by especially in the Boston Metro area.

        •  Well, it could be argued (3+ / 0-)

          that all those same-sex marriages staying together outweigh the straight marriages that fall apart for various reasons. ;-) But I'd say it's probably more due to education and average age of first marriage; people in blue states tend to wait longer, until they're established in their careers (and maybe a good start at paying off the student loans) before they get married. In red states, they tend to marry young, haven't had much experience with other people, and find out that marrying your "first love" isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

          An anecdotal story: after my mom died one of my sisters got in touch with a cousin from my dad's side of the family (my mom never got along with her in-laws, perhaps because they saw her as a home wrecker; my dad was engaged to someone else when he met my mom in San Francisco after WWII). We're all out here in California; my dad's family barely strayed past the Missouri state line. The cousin sent back an email a short time later, with a full report of what was going on with that branch of the family tree. Most of the cousins were on their second or third marriages, while those of us in "decadent" California were all on our first marriages.

          While my oldest sister did marry at 19 (mainly to get pregnant quickly to keep her beloved out of the draft), the rest of us waited till well into our 20s (32 in my case) before tying the knot.

          There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

          by Cali Scribe on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 10:28:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'm guessing the reason it's not (0+ / 0-)

          better known is that increases in divorce has historically been correlated with the ability for women to support themselves and their children on their own. Nobody wants marriages to go bad, but once they do, especially in circumstances where a spouse is violent, it's important that divorce is an option.

          So divorce was never a good boogeyman.

        •  Red states have (0+ / 0-)

          more rural and less educated populations. So, they marry sooner since college is a major reason people delay marriage.
          Teen marriages break up more often than later marriages.

          Also, red states are more religious. You'd think this would make for a lower divorce rate and, when no-fault divorce first became legal, it did.  But beginning in the '70s, evangelicals adopted a theory of marriage that combined romantic love with a particular view of divine providence to claim that God picked out a "perfect mate" for each person. This is NOT traditional church teaching. It is really quite recent.

          Under the influence of this teaching, when marital problems arise, the conclusion is reached, "We got it wrong. I didn't marry "God's first choice" for me." So, with divorce easier than in previous generations, it has become more widespread.

          As divorce became more socially acceptable (once there were tons of churches, from all over the spectrum, that wouldn't perform second marriages and barely tolerated couples who got a second marriage at a courthouse), churches switched to having "marriage support groups" and "divorce recovery groups." So, the divorce rate accelerated.

          And economic stresses are huge on marriages. Most marriages end because of money. Even if there's been infidelity, it is often fights over money which lead to wandering eyes in one or both spouses. And red states have more unemployment, especially among the less-educated, rural, blue-collar types who also marry early. So, it increases the cycle.

          Honestly, if conservative Catholics and evangelicals REALLY wanted to address a "threat to traditional marriage," they would stop freaking out over marriage equality and work to lower divorce rates--by dealing with underlying causes, not by trying to reinstitute social ostracism of the divorced.

          "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. http://www.kynect.ky.gov/ for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

          by SouthernLeveller on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 07:04:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Yup (5+ / 0-)

      My wife and I married (in Massachusetts) on July 24, 2011. That same day the first same-sex marriages were performed in New York, where I actually was born and lived for a number of years. An older cousin there, a rare conservative in my family, asked if I didn't feel those marriages cheapened mine. Not in the least. We could not be prouder. And our marriage (though still new) is just fine.

      Congrats on your 10th!

      “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Mon Nov 18, 2013 at 06:18:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think I made this post (3+ / 0-)

        the morning after marriage equality was made the law of the land in NYC:

        Woke up.

        Still married.

        And I'm out here in California. We finally got marriage equality back thanks to the courts; so far, we haven't been inundated with plagues of frogs, locusts or interior decorators. (I could use the latter -- this place is a disaster.)

        There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

        by Cali Scribe on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 10:31:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Massachusetts still has the lowest divorce rate (0+ / 0-)

      of any state

      "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - George W Bush

      by jfern on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 11:47:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's been ten years? (8+ / 0-)

    It's really too bad about all those plagues of locusts, and the water turning to blood, and fire and brimstone, and the undead walking the earth for all eternity...

    What's that, you say?  None of that happened?

    Well, mercy me!!!

    The only people who were affected by gay marriage was this couple that lived next door to some lesbians.  They got invited to the wedding and had to buy them a present.

    - Barney Frank

    I prefer to remain an enigma.

    by TriSec on Mon Nov 18, 2013 at 06:56:23 PM PST

  •  It may seem week ten years later .... (4+ / 0-)

    ..... but living on the Vermont border, I can say that civil unions definitely helped advance the cause of equality. To say there was tension was an understatement in 1999 ... it was palpable.

        One reason why the decision happened the way it did ... was that Jeffrey Amestoy was a former Republican attorney general, who knew the landscape politically. By allowing civil unions, there were some GOP support for the bill. Crucially, as Deb Price noted, it allowed Republican Tom Little to craft a bill (including the phrase 'civil unions' itself) that got enough support to have at least the appearance of bi-partisanship.

       True, in time Tom Little himself saw their shortcomings, and fought to replace it with marriage equality. But its implementation (and lack of the-sky-is-falling) helped facilitate the movement elsewhere.

    "We should pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

    by Ed Tracey on Mon Nov 18, 2013 at 07:18:56 PM PST

    •  No dispute (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, skrekk

      It was an important step on the way.

      As a lawyer who used to work for a judge, I'm just saying that the political landscape is a dubious premise for a judicial decision. Judges are supposed to call them the way they see them, and if that provokes a backlash that undoes the decision, it's not the judge's concern.

      “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 06:30:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is why (0+ / 0-)

      I generally support it when a state that previously had  no couples rights for LGBT folk allow civil  unions. Yes, they fall short of marriage equality, but they usually pave the way in a few years. In fact, the time between a state adopting civil unions and adopting marriage equality is shrinking.  Of course, if one can get full equality right away, go for it. But civil unions are stepping stones.

      I know tons of same-sex couples who would rejoice if civil unions came here to KY--some rights is better than no rights. And it lets the populace SEE both  the "sky didn't fall" and the shortcomings.

      "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. http://www.kynect.ky.gov/ for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

      by SouthernLeveller on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 07:09:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And business boomed in Massachusetts as a result, (3+ / 0-)

    right? The caterers, the florists, the administrators of wedding venues, the wedding apparel industry, the bakers--I bet they all did a roaring trade after marriage equality was achieved.

    Thank you for using the term "marriage equality" throughout the diary, fenway. I get so annoyed with the term "gay marriage." As a sign in my Facebook news feed said, "I call it 'marriage.' When I went to lunch, I didn't have a 'gay lunch.' When I parked my car, I didn't 'gay park.'"

    Incidentally, Howard Dean (my fave rave) said that when he signed the civil unions bill in Vermont he wore a bullet-proof vest because of the threats against his life by some of the RWNJs.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 06:34:01 AM PST

    •  It's not just the wedding industry. (0+ / 0-)

      The Commonwealth had an advantage that they could offer top talent for a decade that wasn't available in any other major metropolis for nearly a decade. Massachusetts has seen a tech renaissance in that time period, and you have to believe some of the reason behind that, is that the Commonwealth offered something to the very brightest tech talent you couldn't find anywhere else. I'm the person who posted about being in Cambridge during the first night of marriages above. At the time, I rented a room in a good sized room in a large apartment with my friends for $500 a month. When I was finally forced out of the area two years ago, it was because my landlord decided to up my rent in a tiny 400 sqft studio from $1400 a month to $1800 a month, and that studio was nowhere near public transportation. Things have changed here.

  •  Regarding whether it's gender discrimination (0+ / 0-)

    to deny same-sex marriage, I'm surprised that any sane judge actually accepts this logic:

    other courts have rejected this reasoning, arguing that two men would be denied exactly equally to two women
    It's exactly the same erroneous argument the state used in the Loving v Virginia case, that there was no unlawful discrimination since everyone was equally prohibited from marrying outside their race.   It's bigot-logic at its finest.

    I'm just surprised more judges don't recognize that simple fact since it is indeed gender discrimination on its face, particularly since no state actually inquires as to your sexual orientation or your ability or intent to even have sex, and gay folks can indeed marry in bigoted states if they marry the opposite sex.   The Hawaii court saw that as did the Kramer court in CA in 2005, and Vaughn Walker a few years later.

    Great diary by the way.

  •  You should be proud (0+ / 0-)

    and so should Coakley. Now, if she'd only campaign like she really WANTS the governor's job!

    Any chance that MA's Chief Justice Marshall is on Obama's short list for a SCOTUS nomination? How old is she? In what health?

    "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. http://www.kynect.ky.gov/ for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

    by SouthernLeveller on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 06:51:54 PM PST

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