It’s over a decade since the Bay State became the first in the nation to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples, and the sky still hasn’t fallen. Massachusetts still has the lowest divorce rate in the nation, and school children are still not being subjected to live gay sex demonstrations as part of their state-mandated curriculum. But gay couples can marry, and that was due to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in 2003.
In Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the court ruled 4-3 that the state could not “deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry.” The court gave the state legislature 180 days to “take any such action as it may deem appropriate” to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Liberty Counsel tried to get the Federal Courts involved, but those efforts failed when the judge denied their request, the First Circuit Court of Appeals backed him up, and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. After a long drawn-out battle in which the Massachusetts high court ruled in response to a question from the state Senate that civil unions would not satisfy the court’s ruling, the legislature ended up taking no action, neither blocking nor implementing the Goodridge decision. The state began marrying same-sex couples on May 17, 2004.