Here we go....
BOSTON -- Massachusetts' highest court ruled Tuesday that the state cannot prevent gay couples from marrying under the state constitution, and ordered the Legislature to come up with a solution within 180 days that would allow same-sex couples to wed.
The court, in its 4-3 ruling, did not immediately issue marriage licenses to the seven couples who sued.
"Whether and whom to marry, how to express sexual intimacy, and whether and how to establish a family -- these are among the most basic of every individual's liberty and due process rights," Chief Justice Margaret Marshall wrote in a 34-page ruling. "And central to personal freedom and security is the assurance that the laws will apply equally to persons in similar situations."
"Barred access to the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage, a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community's most rewarding and cherished institutions," she wrote elsewhere in the ruling. "That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under the law."
Legal observers said the case took a significant step beyond the 1999 Vermont Supreme Court decision that led to civil unions in that state, giving couples some of the rights of the marriage.
This decision, lawyers said, rules that gay couples are entitled to all the rights of marriage and that creating a separate class of marriage -- such as civil unions -- would not be acceptable.
"It's a historic decision," said Paul Martinek, editor of Lawyers Weekly USA. "Clearly, the court has said ... that there is a constitutional right in Massachusetts for same-sex couples to have the same benefits of marriage."
The ruling was hailed by gay-rights advocates.
"Today, the Massachusetts supreme court made history," said Winnie Stachelberg, political director for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group. "In the best tradition of our nation, the court ruled that hardworking, tax-paying gay and lesbian citizens deserve the same rights and protections under law as other citizens of the state."
Republican Gov. Mitt Romney immediately denounced the decision and said he would support efforts to change the state's constitution.
"Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman," Romney said in a prepared statement. "I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that makes that expressly clear. Of course, we must provide basic civil rights and appropriate benefits to nontraditional couples, but marriage is a special institution that should be reserved for a man and a woman."
A constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman is currently under consideration in the Legislature but a constitutional ban on gay marriage could not be enacted in Massachusetts until 2006 because of all the various logistical hurdles required to change it.
Still, some court watchers said the Legislature's hands may be tied by the court's ruling.
"While the court left in place the rule-making authority of the Legislature to regulate marriage, there are boundaries to that broad discretion," said Shari Levitan, an attorney with the Boston-based law firm of Holland & Knight. "We have a number of statutes, both state and local, that need to be adjusted to take account of this."
The Massachusetts case began in 2001, when seven gay couples went to their city and town halls to obtain marriage licenses. All were denied, leading them to sue the state Department of Public Health, which administers the state's marriage laws.
A Suffolk Superior Court judge threw out the case in 2002, ruling that nothing in state law gives gay couples the right to marry. The couples immediately appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court, which heard arguments in March, peppering both sides with pointed questions about the evolution of marriage.
The plaintiffs argued that barring them from marrying a partner of the same sex denied them access to an intrinsic human experience and violated basic constitutional rights.
"The right to marry the person you love and with whom you wish to share your life is one of the most fundamental of all our human and civil rights," the plaintiffs wrote in a legal brief. "The desire to marry is grounded in the intangibles of love, an enduring commitment, and a shared journey through life."
Beyond that, they argued that nothing in the state statute dictates that marriage be restricted to a man and a woman. The only restrictions, they said, are that couples cannot be closely related by blood, must be of appropriate age, must have passed certain blood tests, and must be willing to pay a license fee.
The state's Attorney General's Office, which defended the Department of Public Health, argued that neither state law nor its constitution created a right to same-sex marriage. Furthermore, the state's lawyer argued, any decision to extend marriage to same-sex partners should be made by elected lawmakers and not by the courts.
"Although there are also legitimate policy arguments for affording same-sex couples some or all of the benefits now more readily available to married couples, those arguments should be addressed to the Legislature, which ... is the body best suited to decide whether, when and how to make such a radical change in Massachusetts law," the state wrote in a brief.
Over the past decade, Massachusetts' high court has expanded the legal parameters of family, ruling that same-sex couples can adopt children and devising child visitation right for a former partner of a lesbian.
Massachusetts has one of the highest concentrations of gay households in the country with at 1.3 percent of the total number of coupled households, according to the 2000 census. In California, 1.4 percent of the coupled households are occupied by same-sex partners. Vermont and New York also registered at 1.3 percent, while in Washington, D.C., the rate is 5.1 percent.
A key group of state lawmakers also has recently been working behind the scenes to craft civil union legislation similar to the law passed in Vermont.
Courts in Hawaii and Alaska have previously ruled that the states did not have a right to deny marriage certificates to gay couples, but no American court has ordered the issuance of a marriage license -- a privilege previously reserved for heterosexual couples.
The U.S. House is currently considering a constitutional ban on gay marriage, which President Bush has said he would support.
Canadian courts in Ontario and British Columbia recently legalized gay marriage, leading to hundreds of same-sex ceremonies. Belgium and the Netherlands also have legalized gay marriage. (AP)
Yet another evidence of our Nations Apostasy..
Get Out of the Cities!!!