Ten years ago today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down its ruling in Goodridge et al. v. The Department of Public Health that only marriage would provide equal protection under state law to same-sex couples. The court reaffirmed its decision in February 2004, and on May 17 of that year, same-sex couples began marrying in Massachusetts.
At the time of the Goodridge decision, HRC Field Director Marty Rouse was the head of MassEquality, the statewide LGBT equality group. The court’s ruling was quickly brought under attack by a legislative effort to overturn it.
“While all of us knew we were involved with something unprecedented in history, we were also so thrown into a new American battle to prepare to defend this historic decision that we, frankly, didn't have time to savor the moment,” Rouse said. ”We knew that if we weren't prepared, and didn't sound the alarms, that this could easily have been snatched away from us.
“Was this flag of freedom set loosely into the Massachusetts soil, or would we dig deep and solidify this victory as a harbinger of more to come? That was the question ten years ago,” Rouse said.
We now know the Goodridge decision helped pave the way for the new reality for marriage equality in this country. By the time marriage equality takes effect in Hawaii in December and in Illinois in 2014, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population will live in states that embrace marriage equality.
Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which represented the plaintiffs in Goodridge, has released a video celebrating the anniversary and reflecting on its hard-fought victory in the landmark case.
Join HRC in congratulating Massachusetts on 10 years of marriage equality, and for thanking the state for paving the way for equal marriage rights in 15 more states plus D.C. - with more progress yet to come.