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10 years later, Goodridge decision still seen as milestone

Advocates see path for nationwide marriage equality in another decade

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Mary Bonauto, GLAD, gay news, Washington Blade
Mary Bonauto, gay news, Washington Blade

Mary Bonauto litigated the case that brought marriage equality to Massachusetts 10 years ago. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ten years have passed since marriage equality came to the first state in the nation following a historic decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, helping to usher in swift change in attitudes and law around gay and lesbian couples.

On Nov. 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court handed down a 4-3 ruling in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, bringing marriage equality to the Bay State.

“The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the Commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry,” the decision states. “We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals.”

Despite efforts from then-Gov. Mitt Romney to limit the ruling to civil unions and enact a constitutional amendment to rescind the decision, supporters of the ruling won the day and marriage equality has remained the law of the land in Massachusetts.

Mary Bonauto, who litigated the Goodridge case on behalf of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and now serves as civil rights director there, said on the 10th anniversary of the decision the ruling “broke a historic barrier that we have never been able to overcome.”

“And it did so in the shared values of our constitution that we all believe in equality and we don’t have second-class citizens in this nation under the law,” Bonauto said.

The magnitude of the decision was bolstered, Bonauto said, six months later by the same-sex couples who went to the altar to marry.

“Now you had principle and you had reality working together, and all this freedom and equality from the court, and the you saw the joy in couples who finally were able to marry,” Bonauto said. “I think actually having couples marry was profound. It had to happen somewhere, somebody had to be first.”

Evan Wolfson, an early proponent of marriage equality and current president of Freedom to Marry, said having same-sex marriage legal someplace in the country was transformational for the movement.

“The breakthrough we were always working for in those early years was to make it real somewhere because we knew that once people had a chance to see with their own eyes families helped, and no one hurt, the opposition and resistance and fears would begin to subside, and we could build on that win to the rest of the wins still needed,” Wolfson said.

But the victory in Massachusetts, followed by then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to distribute marriage licenses to gay couples, was met by a significant roadblock in the 2004 election when 11 states adopted constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. President George W. Bush won re-election after making support for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage a prominent part of his campaign.

Pointing to political analysis debunking the notion that the marriage issue drove voters to the polls to re-elect Bush, Bonauto expressed skepticism that the ruling led to the win for Republicans in the 2004 election.

“The way this all got started, I think, people were putting two-and-two together about moral values, and the 22 percent of voters had stated that their most important consideration was ‘moral values,’ and the 11 amendments,” Bonauto said. “In the exit polling and so on about what this moral values means, for a great many people it meant the Iraq war. So it wasn’t even clear that the moral values voters were Bush voters.”

Bonauto said when she filed the case in 2001, 36 states already had statutory bans on same-sex marriage in response to advancing efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii in the 1990s.

“From my perspective, it wasn’t really so much a backlash as a continued lashing,” Bonauto said. “People who had already taken steps to be very explicit about marriage bans, the only place they could go, continue to hone their political credentials, was to be even more draconian, and so that’s what happened by and large.”

Referencing a speech he delivered prior to Election Day of that year, Wolfson said the win in Massachusetts still trumped the losses at the ballot box in 2004 because it was still progress from the status quo.

“Even in 2004, I was on record before the election as saying that any year in which we endured some anti-gay attacks, but won marriage was a winning year because wins trump losses,” Wolfson said. “We would use the power of the win to overcome the temporary barriers erected in our losses, and that’s precisely what we are doing.”

It wasn’t until 2008 when other states would follow suit after courts in Connecticut and California ruled in favor of marriage equality, although the victory in California was (until recently) abrogated several months later by the passage of Proposition 8.

Now 16 states and D.C. are poised to have marriage equality on the books in the same year that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of these unions.

The ruling against DOMA at the Supreme Court was coupled by a decision from justices that restored marriage equality to California. In the months that followed, the New Jersey Supreme Court has instituted marriage equality in the Garden State and state legislatures in Illinois and Hawaii have extended marriage to gay couples. At any time, the New Mexico Supreme Court could hand down a ruling in favor of marriage equality as a result of pending litigation.

M.V. Lee Badgett, research director at the Williams Institute, estimated about 100,000 gay couples have married since the Goodridge decision 10 years ago, but the effect of having marriage equality in Massachusetts and other places goes far beyond numbers.

“It will take a while for researchers to analyze and publish more detailed findings on the effects of the ability to marry and of actual marriage,” Badgett said. “One early study showed that same-sex couples in Massachusetts feel more social inclusion, and one sample of gay men showed lower health care costs and health care utilization. In California we’ve seen that psychological health is better for same-sex couples who marry or had domestic partnerships.”

Wolfson said the growth of marriage equality in the country is noteworthy in many respects, including in terms of percentages.

“As we celebrate the end of this big year, we now have 38 percent of the American people living in a freedom to marry state, up from zero a decade ago,” Wolfson said. “Gay people can share in the freedom to marry in 18 countries, in five continents, up from zero virtually a decade ago. That, by any standard, is enormous progress and real momentum, but we have to finish the job.”

Reflecting back on the decision 10 years ago, Bonauto said she hoped at the time this much change would happen a decade later, but confessed “there were times that I certainly wasn’t sure.”

“I had always hoped that the arc for us would be what it was in some ways for interracial marriage, where courts rebuff and rebuff and rebuff, and then in 1948 the California Supreme Court struck down the interracial marriage ban,” Bonauto said. “More states repealed those after the California ruling, so that 19 years later when the Supreme Court decided Loving v. Virginia, Virginia was only one of 16 states that had such bans.”

During a news conference held on the same day as the 10th anniversary of the Goodridge decision, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also noted progress made in the past decade in response to a more general question on LGBT rights.

“I think that anybody who looks at LGBT rights and the road travelled in this country just in the past decade would rightly be pleased by the significant progress that’s been made, even as we acknowledge that more work needs to be done, more progress need to be done,” Carney said.

Carney later told the Blade via email he wasn’t making a direct reference to the Goodridge decision, but his comments were meant “just as a broad reference to the progress made over the last decade.”

And hopes continue for a brighter future as advocates anticipate one of the pending federal lawsuits in 20 states across the country will make its way to the Supreme Court, delivering a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide in less than 10 years. Following the Supreme Court rulings in June, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said marriage equality will reach the entire nation within five years.

Bonauto said she hopes the Supreme Court will settle the marriage issue once and for all, but isn’t completely sure which way the justices would rule and emphasized hard work is necessary for a favorable outcome.

“I think we have to work with the same intensity that we have up to this point and hopefully the Supreme Court will settle the issue, and then if for some reason it does not, which I think would be extremely unfortunate, I just think we have to continue doing what we’ve been doing state by state,” she said.

Freedom to Marry has prepared a “Roadmap to Victory” in anticipation of a Supreme Court decision that entails winning more states and building support for same-sex marriage in nationwide polls. Eyes will be on Oregon in 2014 to see whether it will reverse a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage at the ballot.

Wolfson said he “absolutely” believes that supporters of same-sex marriage will be able to finish the job.

“The good news for us is the same winning strategy that brought us to this point of momentum is the strategy that is going to bring it all home,” Wolfson said.

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Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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Comings & Goings

Hazen inducted into Cooperative Hall of Fame

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Paul Hazen

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Paul Hazen on his being inducted into the 2022 Cooperative Hall of Fame.  On receiving the honor, he said, “I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to combine my work in international development with my volunteer cooperative development work in Washington DC.”

Hazen is executive director, U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) and has devoted his career to elevating the cooperative voice domestically and internationally. U.S. co-ops include Ace Hardware, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Sunkist, REI and the Associated Press. Hazen helped establish federal legislation promoting rural co-op development.  

Prior to joining OCDC, he was CEO of Washington, D.C.-based National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. During his 25-year tenure with the organization, he held key positions, including chief operating officer, vice president of public policy, vice president of member services and director of consumer cooperatives.

He worked for Rep. Al Baldus (Wisc.). He was executive director of Rural Housing Inc. in Madison, Wisc., where he developed co-ops and affordable housing projects in rural communities. 

As a volunteer, Hazen formed the Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) with 12 congregations in D.C.  In 2020, CPA secured more than $18.7 million in contracts resulting in an investment of $13 million in D.C.-based small businesses owned by people of color.

Ben Finzel

Congratulations also to Ben Finzel, who was inducted into the National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame. Upon receiving the honor, he said “To be recognized by your peers is wonderful; to be honored by them is amazing. I still can’t quite believe I have done enough to be worthy of this recognition, but I know enough to be thankful and appreciative of this high honor. Thank you PRSA National Capital Chapter for including me in such inspiring company; I will be forever grateful.”

Finzel is president of RENEWPR, a D.C.-based public affairs, communications consulting firm. In 2004, he helped launch FH Out Front, the first global LGBTQ communications practice at an international firm, Fleishman Hillard, and served as its first global chair. He started DC Family Communicators, a professional networking group for LGBTQ communications professionals. Finzel served on the Victory Campaign Board of the LGBTQ Victory Fund from 2007 to 2017.

His firm is currently celebrating its seventh year in business. To recognize that accomplishment, Finzel is launching an endowed scholarship at his alma mater, Texas Tech University. His business is certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

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Corte Suprema de Justicia de Honduras impide que personas LGBTQ puedan casarse y tengan derechos civiles 

Organizaciones presentan nuevos recursos de inconstitucionalidad

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Manifestaciones del 20 de enero en la Corte Suprema de Justicia por la decisión de la Corte (Foto cortesía de Reportar sin Miedo)

Reportar sin Miedo es el socio mediático del Washington Blade en Honduras. Esta nota salió en su sitio web el 20 de enero.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Líderes LGBTIQ+ enfrentaron un hecho de discriminación hoy al presentarse en la Corte Suprema de Justicia, donde los guardias de seguridad los reprimieron y cerraron los portones de acceso vehícular y peatonal, impidiéndoles ingresar al edificio para presentar los recursos de inconstitucionalidad sobre el matrimonio igualitario. 

En una marcha pacífica, más de 50 personas de la diversidad sexual organizadas en mesas de acceso a la justicia de Honduras salieron del bulevar las Fuerzas Armadas hacia las instalaciones del Poder Judicial para pedirles a los magistrados de la Sala de lo Constitucional que acepten un nuevo recurso tras el fallo anunciado esta semana y presentado en 2018 por las organizaciones Cattrachas y Somos CDC. 

Durante los 10 minutos en que se interrumpió el acceso al palacio judicial, lxs activistas denunciaron agresiones verbales del personal de seguridad de la Corte. Al final ingresaron por el portón vehícular. Se instalaron en las gradas de la entrada principal e hicieron un plantón pacífico, durante el cual exclamaron: “Sí se pudo”, después de lo cual se permitió que líderes LGBTIQ+ ingresaran a la sala a presentar el nuevo recurso. 

Las mesas de acceso a la justicia para población LGBTIQ+ están integradas por Arcoiris, Somos CDC, Asociación Kukulcán, colectivo feminista Ixchel, Somos Trans, Colectivo Violeta, Muñecas de Arcoiris, Grupo Lésbico y Bisexual LITOS de Honduras entre otras.

La directora de Muñecas de Arcoíris, JLo Córdova, y sus compañeras trans marcharon y exigieron a la corte respeto a los derechos civiles de las personas LGBTIQ+ en Honduras. 

“No esperamos nada de una clase política opresora”, dijo el activista de la Asociación Arcoíris, Donnis Reyes, quien recalcó que el fallo de la CSJ no es nada nuevo, ya que por más de 12 años el Partido Nacional de Honduras ha influenciado las decisiones del Poder Legislativo y Judicial. 

“Estamos pidiendo que se deroguen ciertos artículos anticonstitucionales y no están basados en derechos”, dijo la directora ejecutiva de la organización feminista Ixchel, Lucía Barrientos, quien se refiere a la opinión consultiva sobre identidad de género, igualdad y no discriminación a parejas del mismo sexo presentada por la Corte IDH. 

La Corte IDH ha indicado que existe un vínculo indisoluble entre igualdad y no discriminación y se ha establecido la dificultad de separarlos por cuanto el incumplimiento de uno (igualdad) acarrea necesariamente la verificación de la prohibición del segundo (no discriminación). 

En ese sentido, la Corte IDH ha indicado que, en función del reconocimiento de igualdad ante la ley, se prohíbe todo tratamiento discriminatorio. Este principio rector y derecho fundamental fue acertadamente introducido en nuestra Constitución en su artículo 60.

“La falta de reconocimiento jurídico de la realidad conformada por las parejas homosexuales es un atentado contra la dignidad de sus integrantes porque lesiona su autonomía y capacidad de autodeterminación al impedir que su decisión de conformar un proyecto de vida en común produzca efectos jurídico-patrimoniales, lo cual significa que, dado un régimen imperativo del derecho civil, quedan en una situación de desprotección que no están en capacidad de afrontar”, resolvió la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Honduras.

La CSJ declaró no ha lugar los recursos de Inconstitucionalidad vía acción y por razón de contenido, ambos contra el Decreto No. 176-2024, emitido por el Congreso Nacional de la República, en fecha 28 de octubre del año 2004, mediante el cual reformó el artículo 112 de la Constitución de la República y el artículo 45 del Código de Familia.

El fallo fue notificado en la tercera semana de enero, a pocos días de la culminación del gobierno nacionalista de Juan Hernández, pero la sentencia fue emitida en abril de 2021, dos meses después (28 de junio) de la sentencia histórica del caso “Vicky Hernández y otros versus Honduras” por la Corte IDH, donde condena al Estado de Honduras por el asesinato de la líder trans de San Pedro Sula y ordena una serie de reparaciones que incluye otorgar, a través de la vía administrativa, el cambio de nombre de las personas trans, así como otra serie de derechos. 

Reportar sin Miedo habló con activistas, quienes dijeron: “Hubo un retraso injustificado en la notificación de la sentencia”. 

En América Latina, 10 países reconocen algún tipo de uniones del mismo sexo. El matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo es legal en Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, México, Uruguay y en los territorios dependientes de Guayana Francesa e islas Malvinas. Bajo una perspectiva del derecho comparado, el reconocimiento de las uniones homosexuales se ha dado a través de dos vías: la judicial (a través de sentencias de tribunales judiciales) y la legislativa.

Sin embargo, en Honduras el artículo 112 Constitucional, en su párrafo primero, literalmente dice: “Se reconoce el derecho del hombre y de la mujer, que tengan la calidad de tales naturalmente, a contraer matrimonio entre sí, así como la igualdad jurídica de los cónyuges. Solo es válido el matrimonio civil celebrado ante funcionario”.

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