Information release and full opinion text. "The Supreme Judicial Court held today that "barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution." The court stayed the entry of judgment for 180 days "to permit the Legislature to take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion.""
Syllabus extract: "Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. [U]nder the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed samesex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to samesex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process."
Opinion introductory extract: "In this case, we must decide whether persons of the same sex have a fundamental right to marry that is encompassed within the concept of liberty guaranteed by Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution. Alternatively, we must decide whether Article I, Paragraph 1's equal protection guarantee requires that committed same-sex couples be given on equal terms the legal benefits and privileges awarded to married heterosexual couples and, if so, whether that guarantee also
requires that the title of marriage, as opposed to some other
term, define the committed same-sex legal relationship."
Excerpt: "In Goodridge the court was asked to consider the constitutional question "whether the Commonwealth may use its formidable regulatory authority to bar same-sex couples from civil marriage." The court has answered the question. We have now been asked to render an advisory opinion on Senate No. 2175, which creates a new legal status, "civil union," that is purportedly equal to "marriage," yet separate from it. The constitutional difficulty of the proposed civil union bill is evident in its stated purpose to "preserv[e] the traditional, historic nature and meaning of the institution of civil marriage." Senate No. 2175, § 1. Preserving the institution of civil marriage is of course a legislative priority of the highest order, and one to which the Justices accord the General Court the greatest deference. We recognize the efforts
of the Senate to draft a bill in conformity with the Goodridge
opinion. Yet the bill, as we read it, does nothing to "preserve"
the civil marriage law, only its constitutional infirmity. This
is not a matter of social policy but of constitutional interpretation. As the court concluded in Goodridge, the traditional, historic nature and meaning of civil marriage in Massachusetts is as a wholly secular and dynamic legal institution, the governmental aim of which is to encourage stable adult relationships for the good of the individual and of the community, especially its children. The very nature and purpose of civil marriage, the court concluded, renders unconstitutional any attempt to ban all same-sex couples, as same-sex couples, from entering into civil marriage.
The same defects of rationality evident in the marriage ban considered in Goodridge are evident in, if not exaggerated by, Senate No. 2175. Segregating same-sex unions from opposite-sex unions cannot possibly be held rationally to advance or "preserve" what we stated in Goodridge were the Commonwealth's legitimate interests in procreation, child rearing, and the conservation of resources. See Goodridge, supra at 341. Because the proposed law by its express terms forbids same-sex couples entry into civil marriage, it continues to relegate same-sex couples to a different status. The holding in Goodridge, by which we are bound, is that group classifications based on
unsupportable distinctions, such as that embodied in the proposed
bill, are invalid under the Massachusetts Constitution. The
history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom,
if ever, equal."
"In this case, we must decide if our state statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the Iowa Constitution, as the district court ruled. On our review, we hold the Iowa marriage statute
violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. Therefore, we affirm the decision of the district court."
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