Massachusetts became the first state to
legalize gay marriage with a decision handed down nine years ago
On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts
Supreme Judicial Court ruled that gay couples have the right to marry
in the groundbreaking case Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health.
Representing seven gay and lesbian
couples who had been denied marriage licenses in 2001, the law group
Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) sued the
Massachusetts Department of Health in Superior Court. Plaintiffs
lost the case and appealed to the state's highest court.
The state argued that the exclusion was
justified because “same-sex couples cannot procreate on their own
and therefore cannot accomplish the 'main object' … of marriage as
In a 50-page ruling, the court's
majority found that the state may not “deny the protections,
benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two
individuals of the same sex who wish marry” and gave lawmakers 180
days to implement a remedy.
Matt Daniels of the Alliance for
Marriage (AFM), the non-profit which drafted the Federal Marriage
Amendment (FMA), condemned the ruling.
“They have put their full prestige
and authority behind the destruction of marriage as [between] a man
and a woman,” Daniels said. “And that will have national
The ruling set off an attempt to alter
the Massachusetts Constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual
union. It failed to gain sufficient support.
On May 17 of the following year, gay
couples were allowed to legally marry in the state. More than 10,000
did so in the law's first four years.