Two-Years of Fairness in Massachusetts

On the second anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts, it
seems an appropriate moment to salute Gay & Lesbian Advocates &
Defenders (GLAD), the seven plaintiff couples who sacrificed their
privacy in the name of equality, as well as MassEquality, the coalition
that has preserved marriage after continuous attacks from the far right.

Since Nov. 18, 2003 when the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that loving
gay and lesbian couples could not be excluded from the protections of
marriage, so much has changed. In Massachusetts, nearly 6,500 couples
have married since it became legal on May 17, 2004, and the national
debate about equality for our families shifted on its axis.

Certainly, those Massachusetts families are safer and more secure today
because of marriage. Those couples now know that they won't be shown the
door when their spouse faces a medical crisis and mothers and fathers
sleep easier knowing their parenthood status is recognized and honored.
But these marriages go beyond the state border. These families have
taught not only their neighbors but all Americans an important lesson
about fairness.

The discussion around marriage is more than one of benefits. It's a
discussion about the type of society we want to live in. It's the
question of whether the "certain inalienable rights" of "life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness" are American ideals or simply nice ideas.
It's about what we want to teach our children.

Annie Goodridge is a good case in point. Years ago, when she asked her
moms why they couldn't get married, they didn't have an answer. Yet,
Annie's simple but profound question helped ignite a lawsuit that under
Mary Bonauto's leadership led to the historic Goodridge decision. Annie
and other children, no matter what their parentage, know that
Massachusetts values equality and fairness. She and her schoolmates know
that her parents are valued and recognized members of the community.
And these children have learned that democracy works best when it
applies to everyone.

The Goodridge decision has taught us all. Much to our opponents' dismay,
no marriage has been negatively affected by Annie's parents having full
rights under law. The dire predictions of anti-gay activists have not
come to pass — much like they withered away in Vermont after civil
unions were enacted.

In fact, a majority of Massachusetts citizens now support marriage
equality, and interestingly, Massachusetts boasts the lowest divorce
rate in the country. Elected officials have grown along with voters as
demonstrated by the overwhelming rejection this year of a constitutional
amendment banning same-sex marriage.

But as we celebrate the second anniversary of the Goodridge decision,
let's remember that we have a lot of work ahead. In Massachusetts,
opponents have crafted a second marriage ban for the 2008 ballot. And
nationwide, the far right wing is twisting marriage equality to scare
voters and legislators from enacting even the most basic protections for
the LGBT community. It didn't work in Maine this November, but it did
in Texas. We must be ever vigilant and continue to tell our stories to
our families, friends and colleagues.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Let us realize the arc of the moral
universe is long, but it bends toward justice." We have seen legalized
discrimination defeated through groundbreaking court decisions and
Goodridge now stands among them. The arc is bending toward justice, and
Massachusetts is ahead of the curve.

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