The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Tuesday ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry under the state constitution. By a vote of 4-3, the ruling declared that "barring an individual from the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution."
The court did not explicitly tell the state legislature how to carry out the ruling, but gave lawmakers 180 days to make same-sex marriages possible.
In April 2001, seven plaintiff couples from five Massachusetts counties filed suit against the state Department of Public Health after being denied marriage licenses. Their suit was dismissed 13 months later, when a Massachusetts Superior Court judge ruled that the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights did not guarantee "the fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex," reported the Boston Business Journal. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Judicial Court.
"The Commonwealth now recognizes that its gay and lesbian citizens must not be denied equal access to civil marriage--an institution that provides important legal protections to our partners and families, including children like mine," said Vickie Henry, co-chair of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association.
"The court's mandate is unequivocal: we have the right to marry," added John N. Affuso, co-chair of the association.
A 29-year-old Bettina Goislard was shot to death after two men, suspected to be members of the Taliban, opened fire on her vehicle in the Afghan town of Ghazni. The French worker for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had been with the U.N. mission in Afghanistan since June 2002.
This latest attack underscored the need for added security for both national and international women in the region, a step women's groups have been advocating for over the past two years. This week, U.S. senior officials gave the draft constitution of Afghanistan--a document that is supposed to grant equal rights to women--a lukewarm reception. Lorne Craner, the State Department's assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, told the Financial Times that the draft needed to go further in specifically outlawing discrimination against women.
Three women's advocacy groups--the Feminist Majority, the Women's Environment and Development Organization and the Center for Health and Gender Equity--recently gave the Bush administration a "B+" for rhetoric and an "F" for its effort in providing security and promoting the rights of women in Afghanistan and Iraq.
-- Carline Bennett.