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Last night, the eyes of the world were upon Cambridge, the first city in America to legally grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. While the struggle is far from over, the time to celebrate this momentous victory has arrived.
The November ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) upholding same-sex marriage took effect at midnight last night, allowing couples across the state to take their vows. This historic occasion marks the culmination of a six-month struggle to fend off the political and legal attacks of gay marriage opponents like Gov. Mitt Romney, who have tried to circumvent the SJC’s ruling. On a larger scale, today also represent an enormous step forward for gay marriage advocates across the state and country. It is heartening to see that not even the manipulations and false rationalizations of the governor, or for that matter, President Bush, can suppress the efforts of same-sex couples to gain a right to which they are unquestionably entitled.
Over the course of the following week, several Massachusetts churches and synagogues will be making special efforts to accommodate the unusually large number of weddings called for by same-sex couples eager to enjoy their newly obtained freedom. The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has announced that it is ready to wed any couple wishing to get married—regardless of religious affiliation. Today, the denomination’s president is going to preside over the wedding of Hillary and Julie Goodridge, the couple who led the lawsuit that resulted in the SJC’s ruling. The wedding will take place in the UUA’s headquarters, right across from the Massachusetts State House, where Romney and various lawmakers attempted to deny them their constitutional rights. Another plaintiff couple in the Goodridge case, Gloria Bailey and Linda Davies, is having its wedding aired on ABC’s “Nightline.” The open-mindedness and activism of the UUA, as well as that of other religious organizations, such as the Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish movements and a large number of Church of Christ ministers, is to be greatly commended.
The right to marry the person of one’s choosing—regardless of gender—is a fundamental right that all Americans are granted, and we hope that Massachusetts is the first of 50 states to recognize these rights. This day is historic because it marks the triumph of the principle of fairness and right over discrimination and fear.
This past Friday, in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the SJC’s ruling from taking effect, gay marriage opponents requested an emergency order from the United States Supreme Court halting the dissemination of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Fortunately, hours after the federal appeals court in Boston denied a similar request, the Supreme Court refused to grant the order. As the fight gets tougher for gay marriage opponents, they continue to cling to deceptive and self-righteous arguments about the sanctity of marriage and the immorality of homosexuality. Yet it remains unclear why the meaning of marriage should change simply because others in committed, loving relationships are also allowed to marry, and why, even if the notion of matrimony is expanded to include two husbands or two wives, that such change must inherently be negative.
As same-sex couples begin to enjoy their newly won equality, opponents insist that “the battle is not over.” In a time when Roe v. Wade is teetering on the edge of extinction, and important liberties are falling victim to the moral proselytizing of social conservatives, it is important that these vows to carry on the struggle resonate as strongly with advocates of gay marriage as they do with opponents. While today is a day to rejoice, it is also a time to remind ourselves that basic liberties are gained and preserved only at the price of eternal vigilance.
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