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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Right to Marry – Editorial 12/4/03

In an historic move for gay rights, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled on November 18 that gays have the right to marry and gave the legislature 180 days to make the state law comply with the ruling. This is an exciting victory for all those who believe the principle that all men are created equal.

There is much support from within the Bay State for the court’s recent actions. The majority of the Boston City Council released a statement in favor of the decision and advocate for quick legislative action. “State law must ensure the legal, financial, and social benefits of civil marriage for same sex couples and their children,” according to Council President Michael Flaherty. The decision could affect state laws across the country.

Of course the decision did not come without its opponents. The Supreme Court itself was sharply divided (4-3) over the ruling, and Governor Mitt Romney said that he stood by the “learning of the ages,” believing “that marriage should be reserved for a relationship between a man and a woman,” and asserted his support of a constitutional amendment that would undermine gays’ right to get married.

As many people have pointed out, the judgment bears a striking resemblance to the 1967 ruling that finally got rid of anti-miscegenation laws-laws outlawing marriage between two people of different races. That decision also barely passed the court with a 4-3 ruling, but now that same ruling would pass through almost any court.

Why would we encourage the state to interfere with our private lives, especially in regard to one of our society’s most intimate relationships? There are many benefits couples acquire by tying the knot. Married people gain the right to make medical decisions for their partner if their partner is incapacitated, for instance. By denying gay couples the right to get married, we effectively demote them to second-class citizens. The issue is not about special privileges, as some would claim, but about equal rights. Even in the face of public opposition, accepting that gays have such a right is an uncomfortable but necessary process.

Justice Martha Sosman, one of the three dissenters in the recent ruling, questioned how this would affect the children of same sex couples. As it stands, gay couples are already having and adopting children. Before this ruling we were handicapping their children in many ways. For instance, children can be denied Social Security surviving child benefits if the deceased parent is barred from securing a legal relationship to his or her child through second-parent adoption.

The recent ruling affirms what Justice Greeley wrote, “We share a common humanity and participate together in the social contract that is the foundation of our Commonwealth. Perhaps Peter Zupcofska, a lawyer who co-wrote the amicus brief for the Boston Bar Association supporting gay marriage, said it best when he described the affects of the ruling on the gay community as being “somewhat akin to the Berlin Wall coming down.”