May 15, 2014
During the week that Arkansas and Idaho became marriage equality states (pending possible stays) Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is marking the 10th anniversary of the very first marriages of same-sex couples in the United States, which took place in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004.
That joyous day was the result of a groundbreaking decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on November 18, 2003, in the case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. In Goodridge, GLAD represented seven same-sex couples who had sought and were denied marriage licenses.
In the now-famous decision, Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall wrote, “The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.”
“Many people wept when they read those words,” said Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director, who was lead attorney in Goodridge. “That courageous decision built on so much that so many did for so long, and has opened many doors for the LGBT community. We need to keep working for both legal and lived equality across the nation.”
Since 2004, sixteen more states and the District of Columbia have attained marriage equality. The Defense of Marriage Act has fallen, with the first blow against it coming from decisions in GLAD’s case Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, and the final blow coming with the Windsor decision from the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
To mark the tenth anniversary, GLAD is co-sponsoring a series of events with the Boston Center for Adult Education, including a May 20th panel discussion with Julie Goodridge, Hillary Goodridge, David Wilson, Rob Compton, and former Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice John M. Greaney. In addition, Mary Bonauto will speak at Cambridge City Hall on May 16, and will be part of a panel discussion sponsored by the Boston Globe on May 27.
While marriage can mean tremendous security for families, it hasn’t solved every problem. Even with DOMA gone, GLAD continues to hear from people experiencing issues in employment, health insurance, social security and other areas. GLAD can provide answers to questions about marriage equality or any LGBT or HIV rights issue at www.GLADAnswers.org.