UUs celebrate marriage decision
by Jane Greer
Unitarian Universalists rejoiced when Massachusetts' highest court
ruled that the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right
to marry. But the ruling also galvanized opponents across the country,
who vowed to block or reverse the decision through political action at
both the state and federal levels. The landmark decision promises to
elevate the issue of same-sex marriage in the 2004 presidential campaign.
Seven of the fourteen plaintiffs whose suit led to the November ruling
are Unitarian Universalists, including Hillary Goodridge who is also
director of the grant-making Unitarian Universalist Funding Program.
She and her partner Julie Goodridge are the named plaintiffs in the suit
against the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the agency responsible
for issuing marriage licenses.
Speaking at a press conference shortly after the ruling was released,
Hillary said,“This is a profound moment for our family. We will no longer
have to try to explain to our 8-year-old daughter why we can't marry,
or that we love each other even though we are not married. And more importantly,
we'll be able to provide Annie with the full protections under marriage
that we now can't possibly provide no matter how many legal documents
we draft and sign.”
Powerful political figures in both parties in Massachusetts, including
Republican Governor Mitt Romney, are supporters of an amendment to the
state constitution that would limit marriage to a man and a woman. The
state legislature adjourned the day after the ruling but already discussion
of a compromise, an amendment to create civil unions—already legal in
Vermont for same-sex couples—was gaining adherents.
The Massachusetts ruling is viewed as a major victory by advocates of
same-sex marriage, who take heart that under the state constitution,
the soonest an amendment could reach voters is 2006. Under the decision,
same-sex couples would be entitled to the hundreds of legal rights given
to heterosexual married couples, including the power to make medical
decisions for a spouse, access to family members during hospitalization,
the right to transfer property, and the joint filing of tax returns.
The Unitarian Universalist Association has long been vocal in its
support of gay marriage. UUA President William G. Sinkford was interviewed
by the Associated Press, Boston Globe, Boston
Herald, and Boston Phoenix shortly after news of the Court's decision broke.
The Goodridges and the six other Massachusetts couples brought the lawsuit
against the state in 2001 after they went to their respective town halls
to apply for marriage licenses and were refused. The case was taken on
by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). Six of the other
plaintiffs are members of UU congregations.