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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage


Massachusetts Lawsuit:
"Goodridge v. Dep't of
Public Health."
Constitutional amendment.

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Conflicting quotations:

bullet"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.

bullet"A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?" A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author.

bulletOpposing views about 2004-MAY-17, when same-sex couples were able to obtain marriage licenses in Massachusetts:
bullet "If May 17 comes and you have the same reaction in the homosexual community that you had in San Francisco, then this is going to become a Dunkirk for marriage in America. Like that great crisis on the shores of France, it isn't the end of marriage, it isn't the end of one man, one woman, but it's a major loss." Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition."

bullet"When the dust settles, we'll see that no one is hurt, families are helped, gays did not use up all the marriage licenses, and there's enough marriage to share," Evan Wolfson, head of Freedom to Marry . 1

Fortunately, Rev. Sheldon's very eloquent prediction did not come true. Eleven years later, Massachusetts remained among a group of six states with the lowest divorce rate in the U.S. 6

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bullet 2001-APR-11: Seven gay and lesbian couples in the state launched a lawsuit, attempting to obtain the right to marry. Their case is Goodridge et al v. Department of Public Health.

bullet 2003-NOV-19: In a split 4-3 decision, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state constitution allowed same-sex marriage, and that the state had to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting on 2004-MAY-17.

bullet 2004-JAN: Some state legislators had suggested that the court's ruling was ambiguous. They hoped that a full civil union system, such as is available to same-sex couples in Vermont, might satisfy the minimum requirements of the court's decision. The state Senate asked the court for a ruling.

bullet 2004-FEB-06: The state Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion  in response to the Senate's request. They stated that a parallel system of civil unions would not be constitutional. Vermont-style civil unions will not suffice. This ruling cleared the way for full same-sex marriages starting in 2004-MAY-17.

bullet 2004-MAR-29: The Massachusetts legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would deprive same-sex couples the right to marry.  The amendment would also give same-sex couples the right to enter into a civil union and receive the state's approximately 450 benefits. This requires that two constitutional conventions be held to ratify the amendment before it is voted upon by the public.

bullet star 2004-MAY-17: Same-sex couples were able to purchase marriage licenses starting on this date. They became the second political jurisdiction in North America to extend marriage to same-sex couples. The first jurisdiction was the Province of Ontario in Canada during 2003-JUN.

bullet 2004-MAY-20: Same-sex couples who reside in the state were able to marry and have their marriages registered, for the first time in U.S. history. Whether out of state couples can also get married depends upon the status of an ancient miscegenation law. It appears that the clerks initially ignored the law.

bullet 2004-MAY-23: During this week, a same-sex couple who had been married in Massachusetts returned to their home in Minnesota and filed a lawsuit against the IRS. They want to amend a tax return to reflect their status as "married, filing jointly." This may be the opening gun in the battle to declare the federal and state DOMA laws unconstitutional. 2

bullet 2004-NOV-29: The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by one citizen and 11 legislators to overturn the state court' decision which legalized SSM.

bullet 2005-APR: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard an appeal to reverse its 2003 decision. Their original decision stands.

bullet 2005-SEP-14: The Massachusetts legislature votes to defeat a proposed amendment to the state constitution which would ban same-sex marriage, but create civil unions.

bullet 2006-MAR-30: The Supreme Judicial Court -- Massachusetts' highest court -- ruled that the state's 1913 miscegenation law is constitutional. The law is being used to prevent out-of-state couples from coming to Massachusetts and marrying there.

bullet 2006-MAY-10: A Constitutional Convention (ConCon) is scheduled to begin. One item on the agenda is a petition amendment to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state. Apparently, the constitution of Massachusetts allows any group to have rights stripped away by a simple majority vote of the public.

bullet 2006-OCT-06: Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly ruled in favor of granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples who are residents of Rhode Island.

bullet 2006-NOV-09: The house and senate voted 109 to 86 to recess the Constitutional Convention, thus preserving marriage equality in the state.

bullet 2007-JAN-02: ConCon reconvenes. Senators and representatives vote 62 for and 134 against submitting a Marriage Amendment to a plebiscite. Only 50 were required to move the amendment to the voters.

bullet 2007-JUN-14: By an overwhelming vote of 151 to 45, lawmakers in a joint session of the  Massachusetts legislature defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. 50 votes were needed to advance the measure by placing it on the 2008 ballot.

bullet 2008-JUL-29: The Massachusetts house voted 118 to 35 to repeal a 1913 racist law that was originally created in order to prevent interracial marriage. It had since been used to prevent out of state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts. The state Senate approved the repeal of the bill by a voice vote earlier in the month. Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill on JUL-31. Most laws have a 90-day delay before they go into effect; this one went into effect immediately.

bullet 2012-MAY-17: This was the 8th anniversary of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. MassEquality found that 18,462 same-sex couples had married since such marriages became legal in 2004. 4

bullet 2012-JUN-23: Public Polling Policy found that 62% of voters in the state support same-sex marriage; 30% favor making it unavailable once more. That is an increase of support within the state by 4 percentage points in three months and a 1 percentage point decrease in opposition since the last poll. 5

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletThe original lawsuit and public reaction
bulletInitial attempts to amend the state constitution; public opinion survey
bulletThe court ruling
bullet2004-FEB to 2004-MAY-16
bullet2004-MAY-17 to 2005-AUG
bullet2005-AUG to 2007-DEC

bullet2008; our predictions

The main groups promoting and opposing SSM in the state:

bulletPromoting SSM: The Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts, at:

bulletOpposing SSM: Massachusetts Family Institute at:


  1. Carolyn Lockhead, "Pivotal day for gay marriage in U.S. nears. Massachusetts move to legalize weddings may intensify backlash in other states," San Francisco Chronicle, at:
  2. "Unofficial Synopsis Prepared by the Reporter of Decisions: Hillary GOODRIDGE & others [FN1] vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH & another. [FN2] SJC-08860," The Massachusetts Court System, at:
  3. Terry Phillips, "Same-sex couples take on the IRS," Family News in Focus, 2004-MAY-26, at:
  4. Carlos Santoscoy, "Massachusetts celebrates eight years of gay marriage," On Top Magazine, 2012-MAY-17, at:
  5. "Majority support for gay marriage in Massachusetts increases," On Top Magazine, 2012-JUL-05, at:
  6. "Compare divorce and family laws," Find the Data, 2015, at:

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > here

Copyright © 2002 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-APR-6
Latest update: 2015-FEB-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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