A Victory for Gay MarriageFollowing the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision that prohibiting marriage between two members of the same sex was unconstitutional, the Cambridge City Council became the first municipal body to stand behind the ruling and support the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples “as soon as legally possible.” The Tech strongly supports the actions of the council in declaring their support for this right, and applauds their prudence in taking actions that will not fan the flames of angry backlash.
The court’s decision was based in part on the understanding that civil marriage is first and foremost based upon “the exclusive commitment of the marriage partners to one another, not the begetting of children.” The court recognized that the benefits of civil marriage should not be denied to those couples who wish to make these commitments, lest the members of these couples become legally inferior to their opposite-sex counterparts, which is a clear violation of several statutes underlining equal protection in the state constitution. It is not hard to imagine that children of these same-sex couples would be harmed by the restrictions of rights on those parents who adopted them.
Cambridge is seen by many to have an excessively liberal city council, so it came as little surprise to opponents of the measure that the council was interested in taking action immediately. The first proposal brought to the table, by council members Brian Murphy and Denise Simmons, applauded the ruling and supported the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples “as soon as possible.” But as the council and the ruling’s supporters acknowledged, such a move would have done more harm than good. The SJC decision forces the state legislature to change the law to comply with the ruling within 180 days, but will not take effect until then. Any action by city council would likely have sparked more legal controversy and provoked opponents of the measure to further action against it. The intelligent compromise, an amendment supporting marriage licenses to same-sex couples “as soon as legally possible,” has struck the right balance.
This issue represents the changing nature of our society over time, towards a more accepting society. Just as the younger generation helped lead the charge for civil rights for minorities, as college students we are presented with the opportunity to once again help lead our society to a better future. As an accepting community with a strong LGBT presence, MIT continues to represent what is best in society. MIT students should take this opportunity to get involved, make their voices on this issue heard, and ensure that the state does the right thing, where gay rights are concerned. We are proud to live in Cambridge, and proud of the stance our city has taken. Students should not forget that there are many in power who disagree with the steps taken by Cambridge, and only through the organized power of the generation of the future will civil liberties continue to be accessible to more and more of our fellow citizens.
We must now wait nearly six months for Beacon Hill to make the appropriate corrections to state law, but for those who have waited for this small measure of justice much longer, six months won’t be that long.