Mass. High Court Rules for Gay Marriage
February 4, 2004: 11:50AM
By JENNIFER PETER, Associated Press Writer
BOSTON - The Massachusetts high court ruled Wednesday that only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples — rather than civil unions — would be constitutional, erasing any doubts that the nation's first same-sex marriages would take place in the state beginning in mid-May.
The court issued the opinion in response to a request from the state Senate about whether Vermont-style civil unions, which convey the state benefits of marriage — but not the title — would meet constitutional muster.
The much-anticipated opinion sets the stage for next week's constitutional convention, where the Legislature will consider an amendment that would legally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Without the opinion, Senate President Robert Travaglini had said the vote would be delayed.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, and gave the Legislature six months to change state laws to make it happen.
But almost immediately, the vague wording of the ruling left lawmakers — and advocates on both side of the issue — uncertain if Vermont-style civil unions would satisfy the court's decision.
The state Senate asked for more guidance from the court and sought the advisory opinion, which was made public Wednesday morning when it was read into the Senate record.