Addressing joint bench-bar concerns

From Issue Spot: Nationwide Victories for Same-Sex Marriage

Monday, November 26, 2012

Amen! We are at last seeing the changing tide of public opinion on same-sex marriage across the country. This became especially evident last week on Election Day. Four states considered ballot questions regarding same-sex marriage. Equality and common sense prevailed when Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote through a ballot initiative. There was more to celebrate when Minnesota voters defeated a ballot question that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Before the 2012 election, same-sex marriage had appeared on ballots in 32 different states and was defeated all 32 times. In Massachusetts we are ahead of the curve. After all, it was almost ten years ago that Massachusetts became the first state to legally recognize same-sex marriages. There are now ten U.S. jurisdictions in which same-sex marriage is legal – nine states and the District of Columbia.

Fortunately attitudes about same-sex marriage are shifting across the country. In May, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the Constitution. We’re still hoping that the Supreme Court will take this issue up this year.

Earlier this week, the Boston Bar Association honored the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) with its third annual Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion at the Liberty Hotel. The award recognizes these two organizations for their efforts challenging the constitutionality of DOMA in two parallel cases in the First Circuit. The award was created to highlight exceptional leadership in creating a lasting impact and forging a new path towards a more diverse and inclusive legal profession and society in Greater Boston.

There is still work to be done in ensuring equality for all citizens, but this week’s Beacon Award event gave us the opportunity to pause and celebrate the outstanding work of those championing and to reflect on just how far we’ve come.

We await the Supreme Court’s decision of whether (or when) to take up the two federal cases challenging DOMA and we hope that the Supreme Court was listening when the people spoke on Election Day.

-Kathleen Joyce
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association