Ten years ago this month, marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples for the first time in the United States. Those licenses, and the marriages that ensued, were the product of a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in which it held that banning marriages by same-sex couples ran afoul of the guarantees of due process and equal protection in the state constitution. The ruling was issued in November 2003, but the court gave the legislature 180 days to conform state marriage laws to the ruling. The legislature did not amend its marriage laws in time to meet the deadline—and still hasn’t 10 years later—but marriage licenses began to issue anyway on May 17, 2004. That day fell on the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which put an end to state-enforced racial segregation in schools—a coincidence that was surely intentional on the court’s part. There aren’t words to describe the dramatic change that has taken place in just a decade. The controversial ruling in one state, which initially allowed marriages only of its own residents, began a trend that would affect the whole nation. As of now, nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry, and a rapid-fire set of recent federal court rulings suggests that there is no end in sight.
Joanna L. Grossman,
A Decade of Change: The Tenth Anniversary of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States Verdict
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