Praising Massachusetts Court Ruling Allowing Same-Sex Couples To Marry, Lambda Legal Vows To Push Forward

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"We will continue working in states around the country so couples can say 'my wife' or 'my husband' and have the respect and protections they need."
November 18, 2003

(New York, Tuesday, November 18, 2003) - Celebrating a historic Massachusetts high court ruling today granting gay couples full marriage rights, Lambda Legal vowed to push forward to win marriage for same-sex couples in New Jersey and other states.

"This is a historic day for lesbian and gay couples in Massachusetts who until today have only dreamed of being able to get married," said David Buckel, Lambda Legal's Marriage Project Director. “The court has said explicitly that civil marriage can’t be limited to different-sex couples. The state legislature will now look at how -- not whether -- Massachusetts couples will have equal marriage rights.”

Lambda Legal praised the New England organization Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders for successfully litigating the case on behalf of seven same-sex couples in Massachusetts. Lambda Legal also said its efforts in the aftermath of today's decision will focus on securing the same protections for gay couples that every other committed couple has. “This isn't a chess game -- today's ruling is about real people's lives, hopes and dreams,” Buckel said.

“We hope our fellow Americans will treat these new marriages just like they want their own to be treated, offering respect and support to these couples,” Buckel said. “We will continue working in states around the country so couples can say ‘my wife’ or ‘my husband’ and have the respect and protections they need.”

Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on behalf of seven New Jersey couples seeking full marriage rights is moving forward on a faster track on appeal in state court. Both sides in the case always expected it to be resolved at the state Supreme Court, where it’s now headed, according to Lambda Legal. “Our clients are deeply loving, committed couples who have no intention of traveling to Massachusetts or Canada -- they pay New Jersey taxes and they want New Jersey marriage licenses,” said Buckel, who is the lead attorney in that case.

Today's ruling, which impacts couples throughout Massachusetts and cannot be appealed, comes just months after Lambda Legal’s U.S. Supreme Court victory striking down sodomy laws nationwide -- a landmark ruling that will impact all areas of gay people's lives, including relationship recognition, according to Lambda Legal. “Our U.S. Supreme Court victory pushed open a door that had been locked for gay people for decades. Today’s decision is in that same spirit,” said Kevin Cathcart, Lambda Legal’s Executive Director. “In this new era, we will build on our victory and deliver its promise to gay people in all areas of life, including relationship recognition, parenting, schools and employment.”

Lambda Legal noted that it took 40 years to get rid of laws around the country that criminalized sex between gay couples. “The road to marriage equality nationwide will be long and winding,” Buckel said. “But without marriage, gay couples and their families are left vulnerable or forced to scramble to cobble together a patchwork of legal documents that still don’t provide them with the security and protections they want and need.”

According to Lambda Legal, 37 states in the nation have laws intended to prohibit same-sex marriages from being recognized, and a similar federal law has been on the books since 1996. Legislation that would begin a lengthy process of amending the U.S. Constitution to ban recognition of marriages between same-sex couples was introduced several months ago but has garnered limited support, and has drawn opposition from conservatives who believe states should have the right to decide such matters for themselves, according to Lambda Legal.


Contact: Eric Ferrero, 212/809-8585, x227; 888/987-1984 (pgr)
Lisa Hardaway, 212/809-8585, x266; 888/987-1971 (pgr)


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