Politicians hail Massachusetts gay marriage ruling

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Local lawmakers and advocates cheered the decision this week of Massachusetts’ highest court that same-sex couples have an equal right to wed under the state constitution.

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down a ruling and gave lawmakers 180 days to implement the decision. In New York City, at a City Hall news conference the same day, elected officials and advocates called on New York to follow Massachusetts’ lead.

“I wish that New York would take that step forward and allow marriages here in New York and I hope and believe that someday we will,” said New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

Miller and fellow Councilmembers Christine Quinn, Margarita Lopez and Gale Brewer joined state Senator Tom Duane, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Alan Van Capelle, Empire State Pride Agenda’s executive director, to urge Massachusetts lawmakers to act on the court’s decision and find a way for same-sex couples to marry.

“This decision says…that a couple is a couple, a relationship is a relationship and that all families should be recognized,” Quinn said. “And what it says is that there’s no difference between Speaker Miller and his marriage and myself and my partner…there is absolutely no moral reason why the law should treat me differently than it treats Speaker Miller and his wife.”

Van Capelle said Tuesday’s decision represented a bigger victory than the 1999 decision by the Vermont Supreme Court that led to civil unions in that state. The Vermont ruling talked broadly about rights, Van Capelle said, but the Massachusetts decision went further and specifically addressed marriage.

However, the Massachusetts court decision will likely face roadblocks in its state legislature, which has been considering a constitutional amendment that would legally define marriage as a heterosexual union.

Dominic Pisciotta, who attended Tuesday’s news conference with his partner, Andrew Berg, and their 8-month-old twins, said that he and Berg would “absolutely” go to Massachusetts to marry if the legislature makes that possible.

Advocates said on Tuesday that it was unlikely that Massachusetts lawmakers would extend full civil marriage rights to gays. However, if they did, then the issue would likely prompt federal legal challenges, as gay couples that travel to Massachusetts to marry would seek equal status when they return to their home state; Article 4, Section 1 of the Constitution says that “full faith and credit” shall be extended among all states, meaning contracts and agreements that are legally binding in one state are to be recognized by the other states.