The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today announced that under the state’s constitution, lesbians and gay men have a right to marry. The Court, in a 4-3 decision, gave the state legislature 180 days to come up with a legislative solution. The legislature has been considering a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but the earliest that could be placed on the ballot is 2006, according to the Boston Globe. Republican Gov. Mitt Romney immediately criticized the ruling, telling the AP that “marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that makes that expressly clear.”
“Whether and whom to marry, how to express sexual intimacy, and whether and how to establish a family, these are among the most basic of every individual’s liberty and due process rights. And central to personal freedom and security is the assurance that the laws will apply equally to persons in similar situations,” the majority ruled in an opinion written by Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, according to the Associated Press. The decision overturns a prior ruling by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly, who claimed that the primary purpose of marriage is procreation, and same-sex couples cannot bear children, according to the Globe.