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In Massachusetts,
California Ruling Is Sweet Confirmation

In Massachusetts,
California Ruling Is Sweet Confirmation

Thursday's favorable marriage-equality ruling in California was a fabulous anniversary present for Massachusetts gays and lesbians, who've been getting married since May 17, 2004, nearly four years ago to the day. "We're overjoyed that gay and lesbian couples in California will now have the same opportunity we've had in our state, to realize their hopes and dreams of marrying the person they love, regardless of their gender, with all of the crucial protections that marriage brings with it," Marc Solomon, MassEquality campaign director, told The Advocate.

That was among the reactions to the California decision in the Bay State, where more than 10,000 same-sex couples have gotten hitched to date. The ruling, said Lee Swislow, executive director of Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, proved that the 2003 decision by her state's highest court to legalize same-sex marriage was no fluke.

"When you look at the issues, as the [Massachusetts] supreme judicial court did, as the California supreme court did, you understand that it is only right and just that same-sex couples be treated as equally as any other couple," said Swislow. "Marriage in Massachusetts simply changed the landscape of what equality meant, and over these four years, we've seen growing public opinion and support for marriage of same-sex couples."

Said Massachusetts's representative Barney Frank: "I can assure the people of the state that the result of this decision will be to improve the quality of life of tens of thousands of Californians who will now be able legally to express their love for each other -- while having no negative effect whatsoever on the overwhelming majority of Californians who will choose not to marry someone of the same sex."

Some observers sounded a more cautious note. "This victory...will no doubt provide important protections to couples and families," said Mark Snyder, a Boston-based activist and founder of "Still, I remain mindful that a broader social justice-oriented agenda is what will liberate the queer community." Keri Aulita, vice president of the Boston Pride Committee and a former resident of California, also acknowledged the "fight ahead," even though "it's only a matter of time before everyone realizes that marriage is a basic right."

One obstacle -- a pending ballot initiative to amend the California constitution to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples -- is something Massachusetts has already successfully dealt with: a similar measure to California's was defeated at a state constitutional convention last year by a comfortable margin of 151-45. David Wilson, part of one of the seven plaintiff couples in the landmark Massachusetts ruling, offers this advice to California gays: Make sure you're visible.

"Come out to your families. Come out in your jobs. Come out in the school systems where your children go to school. Come out in your churches. The personal stories carried the day for us in Massachusetts," said Wilson. "Every house and senate member that changed their vote and voted with us, without exception, said it was the personal stories that made a difference."

Another marriage-equality showdown is looming in Connecticut, where Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is waiting for a decision on a same-sex marriage case pending before that state's highest court. GLAD presented its oral argument in the case last May, and Swislow hopes it doesn't take another four years before another state upholds marriage equality.

In California, she said, "an enormous number of people are going to see what we've seen in Massachusetts: that only good things happen when people can marry the person they love." (William Henderson, The Advocate)

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