Unprecedented battles call for unprecedented resolve

In 2001, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed suit against the Massachusetts Department of Health in an effort to challenge under the Massachusetts Constitution the laws barring same-sex couples from obtaining government marriage.

Goodwin attorneys led the way in preparing an amicus brief which was signed by numerous historians. "As Massachusetts courts and lawmakers ultimately concluded during the process of recognizing the full equality of African Americans, all citizens must have full marriage rights to be truly equal under the law. Allowing same-sex couples to participate as full citizens in the institution of marriage is no radical change," the brief stated.

In its argument before the court, GLAD argued that the state's Constitution guarantees that all people shall be treated equally and enjoy fundamental liberties, including the freedom to marry a partner of the same-sex. GLAD argued that excluding same-sex couples and their families from civil marriage abridged those basic promises, and denied the enormous protections and responsibilities marriage provides to their families and children.

On Nov. 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its ruling, stating it had been asked whether the state "may deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry. We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens."

The Court found that denying marriage licensing was unconstitutional as a matter of both liberty and equality guarantees, leading Massachusetts to become the first state allowing same-sex couples to marry in the United States.