The issue of same-sex marriage in this state has long been debated in the courts of public opinion, but today the highest court of law in the Commonwealth has ruled to end the unfair practice of denying equal access to marriage to committed couples of the same sex. This ruling relates to the legal actions that removed the ban on interracial marriage and made women an equal partner in heterosexual relationships, instead of the property of the husband. These actions did not weaken the institution of marriage; indeed, they expanded the meaning of it. Expanding the right to vote to non-white men, and later, women strengthened democracy in this country, just as this ruling will strengthen and solidify the institution of marriage in this state, and hopefully some day soon, this country. The Court tells us today that the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage are a right and not a privilege that can be denied at the discretion of the Commonwealth. 

The unfortunate part of this case is that the legislature could not be counted on to do what was right: to expand the definition on it’s own – it had to be ordered to do so by the Court.  The legislature has the duty of protecting the rights of minorities, even if it may sometimes be against the majority opinion.  To lack the will to stand up for equality is a sure sign of a legislator who is more concerned in getting reelected than in creating a society free of social injustices.  All will have to wait and see what the legislature does with its Court-issued mandate to amend the regulations dealing with marriage to reflect its opinion.  We hope that the final outcome will be one that grants full marriage rights to same-sex couples.  If all goes well, two people that have been together for decades may finally get to legally call their significant other “wife” or “husband” within the next 180 days.

 

-       Matthew Robinson

-       Co-Chair, UMass Dartmouth Pride Alliance

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