Gay marriage ruling sparks debate

by Jenn Buck | 11/19/03 6:00am

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made history yesterday morning, issuing a 4-3 decision in favor of striking down a ban on gay marriage.

The high court's decision reflected the majority opinion that government attorneys "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason" to deny gay couples the right to legally wed. The ruling gave the state legislature six months to amend state laws.

Immediately, passionate reactions on both sides of the issue came from around the nation.

For some, the occasion marked a joyful step forward into a more egalitarian future, and tears of joy streamed down faces of happy couples planning spring weddings. For others, including Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), the decision was dismaying.

"I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history. I disagree with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts," Gov. Romney said to The Boston Globe.

President Bush was also quick to denounce the court's decision, and vowed to pursue legislation to prevent same-sex marriages.

Many politicians, however, welcomed the decision.

Rep. Barney Frank (D) told The Boston Globe that the ruling "will enhance the lives of probably thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of Massachusetts citizens, and will have no negative effects on anyone else."

Massachusetts' other Congressional representative, Marty Meehan, also supported the decision.

"There will be some from the right who will try to paint a picture that this will somehow be an infringement on heterosexual couples. I don't view it that way," Meehan said.

Dartmouth students also had strong reactions to the ruling.

Members of one campus gay and lesbian group, the Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance celebrated the landmark decision.

For Andrea Shute '05, an openly gay woman whose partner is a Massachusetts resident, the court's ruling may change her life.

"As a couple who plans to live in the New England area of the country this could have a big effect on our decision on where to live," Shute said.

Catherine McManus '04 said she approved of the decision. "I'm just happy that there is some recognition on an official level that gay and lesbian partnerships, first of all, simply exist, and that they are a valid and valuable and fulfilling way of living out one's life," said McManus.

Other students were not as pleased.

Tory Fodder '05 told The Dartmouth, "I feel that marriage is a sacred institution, and that it should be the American people through their legislators who decide whether or not to legalize gay marriage -- not the courts."

He said "the majority of the American people do not support gay marriage and would agree, as do I, that marriage should be defined and codified as being a union between male and female," Fodder said.

Eric Turnberg of the Tucker Foundation, said "I think it's tremendous, I was thrilled to hear that today. I think it's a long time in coming."

When asked about his stance on the issue as an Episcopalian, he said, "I would hope there's more in Christian faith that stands to unite us than divide us."

He acknowledged, however, as many people did on both sides of the issue, that the battle is far from over.

"I think [the legislation] will deepen the divide within the church over gay unions before it heals," Turnberg said.

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