When the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts released its decision in the Goodridge
case, I scoured the internet for a copy of the decision and, perhaps, some good constitutional law analysis. I found a copy of the decision
, but was overwhelmed by the density of the text. Plus, I was at work, which precluded me from printing the thing out and reading the case closely. I assumed that the Massachusetts case tracked the earlier court decision in Vermont, which as followers of the Dean campaign know, eventually led to the creation of civil unions.
I was wrong. The Massachusetts Court went further.
I finally found a thorough constitutional analysis in Gay City News by the trusted Arthur Leonard here. Over the years, I've come to rely on Arthur to flesh out the constitutional issues.
But the Massachusetts and Vermont cases are clearly distinguishable in this regard.
In Vermont, the plaintiffs asked the court to determine whether it violated the "equal benefits" provision of the state constitution to deprive same-sex partners of the rights and responsibilities of marriage. The court said that it would satisfy the state constitution if the legislature came up with a mechanism for allowing same-sex partners to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities under state law that opposite-sex partners enjoy. The Civil Unions Act was the result.
In the Massachusetts case, the plaintiffs sought marriage itself, not just the rights and benefits attached to the institution, and framed their question to the court as whether it violates the state's constitution to deny them the ability to marry. The court answered in the affirmative.
So, Massachusetts has taken the same marriage route as Ontario province and not the civil union detour, like Vermont. HOW the Massachusetts legislature will handle this is, at this point in the game, moot. Whatever they do must conform with the requirements of the high court decision. I don't believe a constitutional amendment is possible in 180 days, nor would it be effective, as it would run exactly counter to the high court decision. Ditto for any "protection of marriage" type legislation. It would be in violation of the court order and, thus, violate the state constitution.
One thing is certain: New York state is now SURROUNDED by jurisdictions that allow for civil unions, if not outright gay marriage. I wonder how long the Empire State can continue without some legislative or judicial action of its own. "Come. Out. With. Your. Hands. Up. You're. Surrounded."
I'm from upstate and have lived in Manhattan since college 16 years ago. I know from NY state. It'll take years.
Oh, and for those of you who can read a map: No, I'm not counting Pennsyltucky. Since I saw him SCREAMING in the Senate fillibuster about the absence of any right to privacy under U.S. law, I refuse to include Pennsylvania as an enlightened northeastern state so long as
Miss Senator Santorum continues to fool the good people of Pennsylvania into electing him.