Happy Anniversary, Massachusetts!

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May 17, 2013
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Senior Staff Attorney Karen Loewy

Nine years ago today, Massachusetts made history by becoming the first state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to marry—a giant leap forward in the movement for LGBT equality.

It’s an especially sweet anniversary for me. In April 2001, I was still a baby lawyer, just starting out at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), when I marched up the steps of the Suffolk County Courthouse and delivered to the clerk the complaint in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, on behalf of seven same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry. It was the first lawsuit I ever filed.

Over the course of the next two-and-a-half years, my colleagues at GLAD made the case for the freedom to marry under the state constitution, with support from a host of friends of the court, including Lambda Legal. In November 2003, on the heels of Lambda Legal’s landmark victory in Lawrence v. Texas, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in our favor. When the state senate tried to circumvent the Court’s mandate by pushing a civil union bill through, Lambda Legal filed another brief, supporting GLAD’s argument that civil unions do not fulfill the promise of equality. The Court agreed. Nothing short of marriage could satisfy the Constitution.

On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts issued the first marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I spent the day rejoicing with several of the Goodridge plaintiffs as they received their marriage licenses and celebrated their weddings. More than 6,000 lesbian and gay couples got married in the first six months alone.

But Goodridge transformed the legal landscape far beyond Massachusetts. Today, couples in 12 states and the District of Columbia can fulfill their dreams of marrying the person they love. Half those states achieved marriage equality in the last year—three of them this month alone. We have momentum, and it’s picking up speed.

We still have a long way to go, of course. That’s why Lambda Legal is suing for the freedom to marry in Illinois, New Jersey and Nevada. We’re waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the discrimination of both California’s Prop 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. And we won’t stop fighting until couples throughout the nation, as well as their families, can achieve their dreams of equality.

I’m proud of what my colleagues at GLAD and I accomplished nine years ago, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to continue that work here at Lambda Legal. Happy anniversary, Massachusetts!