My way or the highway! The great and powerful Oz (a.k.a. the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court) has spoken! The high court ruled on Feb. 4 that only full "marriage" for same-sex couples-rather than civil unions-should be constitutional. Massachusetts is now on track to host the first U.S. gay nuptials in mid-May.
The Massachusetts Supremes presented their view in response to a request from the state Senate about whether they would accept Vermont-style civil unions. Nope, said the same four justices who ruled in favor of "gay marriage" last November: That would be "unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples."
The Massachusetts legislature, scheduled to meet in a constitutional convention on Feb. 11, may see things differently: Legislators were scheduled to consider an amendment to the state constitution that would legally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. But that constitutional amendment apparently cannot be on the ballot until 2006, meaning that until then the view of the four Supremes is likely to be Commonwealth of Massachusetts law, no matter what the elected representatives decide.
The Supreme Judicial Court three months ago gave the legislature six months to conform to its will about same-sex unions, but was unclear about whether domestic partnerships would suffice. The Massachusetts Senate asked for more guidance from the court, which now has spoken. The next two questions are whether the legislature will speak and whether-for the good of the whole nation-President Bush will speak.
The president has said repeatedly that he will support "if necessary" a proposed constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman, but he has not been specific on what would make that amendment necessary.
Now that Massachusetts jurists are again legislating rather than interpreting, and given the U.S. Supreme Court's tendency to do the same, the need is now.