November 23rd, 2003

Professional

Massachusetts ruling - equal marriage rights for same-sex couples

This is from the Human Rights Campaign press release on November 18, 2003.

Massachusetts First State in Nation to Grant Same-Sex Couples the Right to a Civil Marriage

WASHINGTON - The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that same- and opposite-sex couples must be given equal civil marriage rights under the state constitution. Collapse )

"Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court made history," said Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign. "This ruling will never interfere with the right of religious institutions - churches, synagogues and mosques - to determine who will be married within the context of their respective religious faiths. This is about whether gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships will be afforded the benefits, rights and protections afforded other citizens to best care for their partners and children. This is good for gay couples and it is good for America."

Key results from the ruling:

1. Same sex couples in Massachusetts who choose to obtain a civil marriage license will now be able to:
- Visit each other in the hospital, without question;
- Make important health care and financial decisions for each other;
- Have mutual obligations to provide support for each other;
- File joint state tax returns, and have the burden and advantages of the state tax law for married couples; and
- Receive hundreds of other protections under state law.

2. Churches and other religious institutions will not have to recognize or perform ceremonies for these civil marriages. This ruling is not about religion; it’s about the civil responsibilities and protections afforded through a government-issued civil marriage license.

3. By operation of law, all married couples should be extended the more than 1,000 federal protections and responsibilities administered at the federal level. Because no state has recognized civil marriage for same-sex couples in the past, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act has not yet been challenged in court.

4. Other states and some businesses may legally recognize the civil marriages of same-sex couples performed in Massachusetts the same way they treat those of opposite-sex couples.
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