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Encyclopedia > Goodridge v. Department of Public Health
Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts State seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. ...

Argued March 4, 2003

Decided November 18, 2003

Full case name: Hillary Goodridge, Julie Goodridge, David Wilson, Robert Compton, Michael Horgan, Edward Balmelli, Maureen Brodoff, Ellen Wade, Gary Chalmers, Richard Linnell, Heidi Norton, Gina Smith, Gloria Bailey, and Linda Davies v. Department of Public Health and Commissioner of Public Health
Citations: 440 Mass. 309; 798 N.E.2d 941; 2003 Mass. LEXIS 814
Prior appellate history: Summary judgment granted to defendants, 14 Mass. L. Rep. 591 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2002)
Subsequent appellate history: none
The denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated provisions of the state constitution guaranteeing individual liberty and equality, and was not rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Superior Court of Massachusetts at Suffolk vacated and remanded.
Court membership
Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall
Associate Judges John M. Greaney, Roderick L. Ireland, Frances X. Spina, Judith A. Cowin, Martha B. Sosman, Robert J. Cordy
Case opinions
Majority by: Marshall
Joined by: Ireland, Cowin
Concurrence by: Greaney
Dissent by: Spina
Joined by: Sosman, Cordy
Dissent by: Sosman
Joined by: Spina, Cordy
Dissent by: Cordy
Joined by: Spina, Sosman
Laws applied
Mass. Const. arts. 1, 6, 7, and 10, and Part II, c. 1, ยง 1, art. 4; Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 207

Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003), was a landmark state appellate court case dealing with same-sex marriage rights in Massachusetts. Court citation is a standard system used in common law countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia to uniquely identify the location of past court cases in special series of books called reporters. ... The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in the United States commonwealth of Massachusetts. ... 2003 (MMIII) is a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Precedent, sometimes authority, is the legal principle or rule created by a court which guides judges in subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Appeal. ... Same-sex marriage, often referred to as gay marriage, indicates a marriage between two persons of the same sex. ... State nickname: Bay State Other U.S. States Capital Boston Largest city Boston Governor Mitt Romney (R) Senators Edward Kennedy (D) John Kerry (D) Official language(s) English Area 27,360 km² (44th)  - Land 20,317 km²  - Water 7,043 km² (25. ...

In a 50-page, 4-3 ruling delivered on November 18th, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that Massachusetts may not "deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry" because of a clause in the state's constitution that prohibits "the creation of second-class citizens." The legislature was given 180 days to change the law to rectify the situation. November 18 is the 322nd day of the year (323rd in leap years), with 43 remaining. ... 2003 (MMIII) is a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in the United States commonwealth of Massachusetts. ... Marriage is a relationship that plays a key role in the definition of many people who (usually) are in a sexual relationship. ...

On February 4th, 2004, the four-justice majority of the court clarified its ruling at the request of the state legislature. Stating that, "the history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal," the court opinion said that nothing short of equal marriage rights would be constitutional. In response to legislative efforts to construct a system of civil unions like that of Vermont, the court said that such unions would create an "unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples." February 4 is the 35th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... A civil union is one of several terms for a civil status similar to marriage, typically created for the purposes of allowing same-sex couples access to the benefits enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples (see also same-sex marriage); it can also be used by opposite-sex couples who... State nickname: The Green Mountain State Other U.S. States Capital Montpelier Largest city Burlington Governor Jim Douglas (R) Senators Patrick Leahy (D) Jim Jeffords (I) Official language(s) None Area 24,923 km² (43th)  - Land 23,974 km²  - Water 949 km² (3. ...

Republican Governor Mitt Romney promptly released a statement in support of a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts state constitution defining marriage as existing only between "one man and one woman." His statement said, "the people of Massachusetts should not be excluded from a decision as fundamental to our society as the definition of marriage." After much debate, a joint session of the Massachusetts legislature approved a compromise constitutional amendment proposal, prohibiting same-sex marriage but creating civil unions for same-sex couples, before the 2003-2004 session ended. However, the same proposal failed during the 2005-2006 session [1], and hence will not be put before voters in the November 2006 election. Simultaneously, citizens' groups circulated petitions to propose an alternative constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage without creating civil unions. Currently, supporters intend for this amendment to be put to a popular vote in the November 2008 election. Willard Mitt Romney is a Republican politician from Massachusetts by way of Michigan and Utah, who has been the Governor of Massachusetts since 2003. ...

However, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, along with similar laws in 38 other states, means that other states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts under the normal principle of full faith and credit. The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA is a federal law of the United States passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996. ... Full faith and credit is mutual understanding between courts of the 50 states of the United States to recognize, honor and enforce each others actions. ...

The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment could possibly negate the ruling, and the marriages it will allow, but that would most likely be ruled upon by future decisions by one or more federal courts. The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution which would define marriage in the United States as a union of one man and one woman. ...


^  Boston Globe article about failure of legislative amendment

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