HRC Blog

ACLU of Massachusetts and the Fight for Marriage Equality

Post submitted by ACLUM board member Holly Gunner.

ACLU MAThe ACLU of Massachusetts (ACLUM) was a bedrock player from the start in Massachusetts’ long and hard-fought struggle for Marriage Equality.  A founding member of the coalition that eventually became MassEquality, the ACLU worked in partnership with HRC, GLAD, Freedom To Marry and local LGBTQ Rights organizations to do the work of litigation, lobbying and grassroots organizing that made history when Massachusetts became the first-in-the-nation state where same-sex couples could marry.  The ACLU’s Legal Department submitted a key amicus brief in GLAD’s Goodridge case that got the ball rolling, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2003 decided that same-sex couples had the right to marry the person they loved.  Filed in 2000, that case worked its way to the state’s high court. Starting then and during the heated legislative battle that followed and lasted until mid-2007, an intense lobbying effort was carried out by Norma Shapiro, Director of the Mass. ACLU’s Legislative Department, alongside ACLUM Board member Holly Gunner and Legislative Specialist Ann Lambert. 

As an organization founded in 1920, ACLUM brought long-standing relationships, access to and deep familiarity with legislators, many of whom had worked closely with ACLUM on a wide range of issues.  This resource was particularly helpful with many of the legislature’s Catholic members, who comprised 69% of the total.  To appeal to their deeply-held social justice values, Holly Gunner worked with several Catholic priests as they testified and spoke personally with many legislators about how amending the state constitution to bar same-sex marriage would discriminate against a minority group because of who they are.  By doing that, we gained a number of critical votes to help us reach our final 151-45 victory.  In the end, after three years of nail-biting Constitutional Conventions, we defeated the last legal threat to marriage equality and made history in America.

Thank you to the plaintiffs, GLAD attorneys, and MassEquality's coalition of 17 organizations that helped to make Massachusetts marriage a reality.

Read more from the Massachusetts blog series here.

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