Marriage Equality

Marriage equality in the United States is a very touchy subject. Countless couples get married every day, just as many couples also divorce. More and more, same-sex couples are winning the right to get married. Massachusetts was the only state in the union that allowed gay marriage until April 2009, when Vermont allowed it as well. Two other states allow civil unions instead of marriage: Connecticut and Iowa. For a brief period in 2008, gay marriage was allowed in California. However, a ballot proposition known as Proposition 8 was passed a short time later, defining marriage in California as between a man and a woman. The case is currently under appeal and a decision is expected within 90 days of March 5, 2009.

At the very heart of the issue seems to be religion. Many conservatives, particularly Christians, claim that allowing homosexuals to marry will somehow make their own marriages less sacred or tarnish them in some way.

There are numerous organizations that advocate marriage equality and there are also numerous court cases and pieces of legislation currently active in the legal system today. Since people are so passionate about marriage equality, it’s no surprise that they have taken their issues to court.

Kerrigan & Mock v. Connecticut Dept. of Public Health

On August 25, 2004, GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) filed a court case against the Connecticut Department of Public Health. They filed on behalf of seven separate homosexual couples who had all been denied marriage licenses in the town of Madison, Connecticut. The couples claimed in court that only the “relationship of marriage would provide them with the protections and benefits” they needed to live securely, as heterosexual couples did. Four years later, in October 2008, in a 4-3 vote, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that according to Connecticut’s constitution, the state must allow same-sex couples to marry. The case made Connecticut the third state to legalize gay marriage at the time.

Cote-Whitacre v. Depart. of Public Health

On October 6, 2005, a case was filed to protest the constitutionality of the "1913 Law," a law which prohibited Massachusetts public officials from performing marriages for couples from other states. Many homosexual couples were interested in traveling to Massachusetts to get married, since it was legal there. The court ruled in 2007 that Massachusetts could allow residents of New Mexico and Rhode Island to formalize marriages there, and that any marriages formalized before July 6, 2006, by New York residents were valid. Basically, couples that resided in states where gay marriages were legal would be able to marry in Massachusetts; however, those marriages do not carry over to states where it is not legal.

Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health

On April 11, 2001, seven homosexual couples filed a case in court that was particularly groundbreaking. They were seeking the right to legally get married. On November 18, 2003, in a 4-3 ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Court determined that the state “may not deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage” to two individuals who wanted to get married, regardless of their sex. That in effect legalized same-sex marriage and said that the Court had decided the State had no rational basis at all for denying same-sex couples the right to marry, as it infringed on their due process and equal protection. Marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Massachusetts began being issued on May 17, 2004.

Twenty years ago, same-sex couples could never have imagined even dating in public for fear of being persecuted. Now, they are able to actively fight for their rights, and it seems the days of true marriage equality are quickly approaching.

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