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Mass. Supreme Court says Gay Marriage Protected

Gay Marriage Protected 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court

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#1 Rov Judicata

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 12:27 PM

Here's the synopsis of the decision:

Quote

Unofficial Synopsis Prepared by the Reporter of Decisions

The Supreme Judicial Court held today 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." The court stayed the entry of judgment for 180 days "to permit the Legislature to take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion."

"Marriage is a vital social institution," wrote Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall for the majority of the Justices. "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 turn it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations." The question before the court was "whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution," the Commonwealth could deny those protections, benefits, and obligations to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry.

In ruling that the Commonwealth could not do so, the court observed that the Massachusetts Constitution "affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals," and "forbids the creation of second-class citizens." It reaches its conclusion, the court said, giving "full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth." The Commonwealth, the court ruled, "has failed to identify any constitutionality adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples."

The court affirmed that it owes "great deference to the Legislature to decide social and policy issues." Where, as here, the constitutionality of a law is challenged, it is the "traditional and settled role" of courts to decide the constitutional question. The "marriage ban" the court held, "works a deep and scarring hardship" on same-sex families "for no rational reason." It prevents children of same-sex couples "from enjoying the immeasurable advantages that flow from the assurance of 'a stable family structure in which children will be reared, educated, and socialized."' "It cannot be rational under our laws," the court held, "to penalize children by depriving them of State benefits" because of their parents' sexual oreintation.

The court rejected the Commonwealth's claim that the primary purpose of marriage was procreation. Rather, the history of the marriage laws in the Commonwealth demonstrates that "it is the exclusive and permanent commitment of the marriage partners to one another, not the begetting of children, that is the sine qua non of marriage."

The court remarked that its decision "does not disturb the fundamental value of marriage in our society." "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 court stated.

The opinion reformulates the common-law definition of civil marriage to mean "the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others. Nothing that "civil marriage has long been termed a 'civil right,"' the court concluded that "the right to marry means little if it does not include the right to marry the person of one's choice, subject to appropirate government restrictions in the interests of public health, safety, and welfare."

Justices John M. Greaney, Roderick L. Ireland, and Judity A. Cowin joined in the court's opinion. Justice Greaney also filed a separate concurring opinion.

Justices Francis X. Spina, Martha B. Sosman, and Robert J. Cordy each filed separate dissenting opinions.

Justice Greaney concurred "with the result reached by the court, the remedy ordered, and much of the reasoning in the court's opinion," but expressed the view that "the case is more directly resolved using traditional equal protection analysis." He stated that to withhold "relief from the plaintiffs, who wish to marry, and are otherwise eligible to marry, on the ground that the couples are of the same gender, constitutes a categorical restriction of a fundamental right." Moreover, Justice Greaney concluded that such a restriction is impermissible under art. 1 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. In so doing, Justice Greaney did not rely on art. 1, as amended in 1976, because the voters' intent in passing the amendment was clearly not to approve gay marriage, but he relied on well-established principles of equal protection that antedated the amendment.

Justice Cordy, with whom Justice Spina and Justice Sosman joined, dissented on the ground that the marriage statute, as historically interpreted to mean the union of one man and one woman, does not violate the Massachusetts Constitution because "the Legislature could rationally conclude that it furthers the legitimate State purpose of ensuring, promoting, and supporting an optimal social structure for the bearing and raising of children." Justice Cordy stated that the court's conclusions to the contrary are unsupportable in light of "the presumption of constitutional validity and significiant deference afforded to legislative enactments, and the 'undesirability of the judiciary substituting its notion of correct policy for that of a popularly elected legislature' responsible for making it.' Further, Justice Cordy stated that "[w]hile 'the Massachusetts Constitution protects matters of personal liberty against government intrusion at least as zealously and often more so than does the Federal Constitution,' this case is not about government intrusions into matters of personal liberty," but "about whether the State must endorse and support [the choices of same-sex couples] by changing the institution of civil marriage to make its benefits, obligations, and responsibilities applicable to them." Justice Cordy concluded that, although the plaintiffs had made a powerful case for the extension of the benefits and burdens of civil marriage to same-sex couples, the issue "is one deeply rooted in social policy" and 'that decision must be made by the Legislature, not the court."

Justice Spina, in a separately filed dissenting opinion, stated that "[W]hat is at stake in this case is not the unequal treat..nt of individuals or whether individuals rights have been impermissibly burdened, but the power of the Legislature to effectuate social change without interference from the courts, pursuant to art. 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights." He emphasized that the "power to regulate marriage lies with the Legislature, not with the judiciary."

Justice Sosman, in a separately filed dissenting opinion, stated that "the issue is not whether the Legislature's rationale behind [the statutory scheme being challenged] is persuasive to [the court]," but whether it is "rational" for the Legislature to "reserve judgment" on whether changing the definition of marriage "can be made at this time wihtout damaging the institution of marriage or adversely affecting the critical role it has played in our society." She concluded that, "[a]bsent consensus on the issue (which obviously does not exist), or unanimity amongst scientists studying the issue (which also does not exist), or a more prolonged period of observation of this new family structure (which has not yet been possible), it is rational for the Legislature to postpone any redefinition of marriage that would include same-sex couples until such time as it is certain that redefinition will not have unintended and undesirable social consequences."

The whole decision is here: http://weblinks.west...lnum=2003847757

Hrmph. The next six weeks should be very telling for how this is going to go.

I'd say the issue is right here:

Quote

The court rejected the Commonwealth's claim that the primary purpose of marriage was procreation. Rather, the history of the marriage laws in the Commonwealth demonstrates that "it is the exclusive and permanent commitment of the marriage partners to one another, not the begetting of children, that is the sine qua non of marriage."

I think we've moved beyond the idea that marriage is for procreation. Nobody I'm aware of says that only people who are going to have children should be allowed to marry. If we accept that marriage doesn't involve children, I'm not sure the government *can* deny the right to gays.

That being said, a large part of this is a loophole; the Massuchests statute doesn't actually mention marriage "between a man and a woman", just between two people. There's still a great deal of ambiguity. We'll see what happens.
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#2 G1223

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 12:42 PM

Well I am assuming that the court here is saying we recognize that a gay marriage has  the same rights and responsibilities as any other marriage. I do not thing it is saying that the state must perfom those cerimonies.  I think it is allowing for the legislative branch to make that law and also allow folks to go to states where such cerimonies may legally be performed and have their marriage recognized.
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#3 Shalamar

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 12:43 PM

Rov, I am very happy that the court decided the way they did. I personally have never believed that marriage was about procreation, but exactly what they have stated...

Quote

The court rejected the Commonwealth's claim that the primary purpose of marriage was procreation. Rather, the history of the marriage laws in the Commonwealth demonstrates that "it is the exclusive and permanent commitment of the marriage partners to one another, not the begetting of children, that is the sine qua non of marriage."

The court remarked that its decision "does not disturb the fundamental value of marriage in our society." "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 court stated.


#4 sierraleone

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 01:10 PM

I was reading the other day about someone who had a sex-change operation in Texas to become a women, married someone (who knew) her and about the operation ( I think he knew her before hand). The husband died, and the wife tried to sue the doctor because she thought it was caused by improper care on the part of the doctor. The place I was reading was probably slanting it ;) but it said the doctor's lawyers, trying to dodge the malpratice suit, said that the wife was still a man, the sex-change operation didn't change her  X and Y chromosomes, and therefor their marriage cannot be recongised, and the widow is no a widow, and therefor has no legal rights to sue the doctor. The Judges agreed with them it seems.

Though how they got a marriage license in the first place?? (Or were they common-law?). If they were allowed to get married in the first place, assuming they know of the brides biological gender, then how come this is allowed  :suspect: Of course, I'm assuming quite a bit :D

A comment on the site said we should then have people with sex change operations marry someone of the opposite biological sex, see how the people issuing marriage licenses and doing marriage ceremonies feel marrying people who appear to be the same gender ;) :D

Edited by sierraleone, 18 November 2003 - 01:11 PM.

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#5 QueenTiye

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 01:21 PM

Quote

I think we've moved beyond the idea that marriage is for procreation. Nobody I'm aware of says that only people who are going to have children should be allowed to marry.

Actually - I know someone who WOULD say that...

What is interesting to me is how expanded our understanding of marriage is.  I think sierraleone had a thread about the historical development of the concept of marriage - this ruling seems to reflect a very fundamental shift about people's perceived relationship to a secular institution.

QT

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#6 sierraleone

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 01:51 PM

QueenTiye, on Nov 18 2003, 10:21 AM, said:

Quote

I think we've moved beyond the idea that marriage is for procreation. Nobody I'm aware of says that only people who are going to have children should be allowed to marry.

Actually - I know someone who WOULD say that...

What is interesting to me is how expanded our understanding of marriage is.  I think sierraleone had a thread about the historical development of the concept of marriage - this ruling seems to reflect a very fundamental shift about people's perceived relationship to a secular institution.

QT
I'm not so sure about that, there probably is, but marriage used to rarely be done out of love. Did that mean that people didn't think it commited them to one another? I don't think so. Theres no way for sure, unless we can ask someone from back then. And did they connect kids to marriage because they thought marriage was about kids OR that kids nearly invariable come out of marriage? (and therefor it is about kids? You can go around in circles about this  :hehe: ) Its still a tricky issue in some ways  :upside:
Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

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Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
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#7 Bad Wolf

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 02:14 PM

Bravo court.  Not that I expect the legislature to let it stand and even if they surprise me and DO let it stand I fully expect that someone will find a way to get this issue in front of the USSC whose moral majority will uphold the sacred institution of marriage for the purpose of procreation only.  *sarcasm*

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#8 Rov Judicata

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 02:17 PM

Shal-- I agree.

QT-- I phrased that poorly.

I meant 'nobody' in the sense that there aren't any groups with significiant political clout advocating that position. While I'm sure there are some individuals with that dual philosophy, it doesn't have any traction politically. :).
St. Louis must be destroyed!

Me: "I have a job and five credit cards and am looking into signing a two year lease.  THAT MAKES ME OLD."
Josh: "I don't have a job, I have ONE credit card, I'm stuck in a lease and I'm 28! My mom's basement IS ONE BAD DECISION AWAY!"
~~ Josh, winning the argument.

"Congress . . . shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis[.]" ~1 U.S.C. § 1, selectively quoted for accuracy.

#9 emsparks

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 02:23 PM

It's about time…..

Knowing Massachusetts, with family there, I expect that after much mashing of teeth, the legislature will let the ruling stand. The Massachusetts, red neck is a funny breed, personnel freedom counts very highly. After all they keep reelecting Ted Kennedy, that aught to tell you something right there.

I would add that John Adams, and John Hancock where from Massachusetts, a fact that the people there won’t let you forget.

The CNN Story:
http://www.cnn.com/2...ling/index.html

Sparky::

Edited by emsparks, 18 November 2003 - 02:43 PM.

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#10 Rhea

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 02:58 PM

Good for Massachusets!

(Assuming, of course, it stands).
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