Soulforce Leaders Thrilled with Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Opinion that Civil Unions Not Equal to Marriage

Press Release: February 4, 2004
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592

(Lynchburg, VA) – Soulforce leaders expressed jubilation today that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has ruled that civil unions will not satisfy the court ordered requirement of granting full rights of marriage to same-gender couples in Massachusetts.

"This is an exciting day for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and their allies. We have always believed that creating a separate second-class status for same-gender couples, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships is not equality, and that separate is inherently unequal,” said Karen Weldin, Director of Operations for Soulforce. “We are so glad the SJC in Massachusetts also recognizes that their state Constitution strictly forbids any system that creates a separate, second-class status of citizens.”

The ruling was in response to the Massachusetts Senate’s request for an advisory opinion from the SJC as to whether a civil unions bill would satisfy the SJC’s ruling that granted equal marriage rights in the state of Massachusetts to same-gender couples in the case of Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health.

On January 14, Soulforce signed on to an “Amici Curiae Brief of Civil Rights Leaders” filed by GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) and other legal experts who successfully argued that the previous decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) granting equal marriage rights would not be satisfied with a “civil unions” bill.

The brief was written on behalf of John Lewis, one of the original speakers at the 1963 March on Washington, the Boston Bar Association, and 27 other local and national civil rights groups.

In recent months, Massachusetts had become ground zero for the religious right’s campaign to deny GLBT people equal marriage rights. In just 7 days, a Constitutional Convention in Massachusetts, which brings together members of both houses, meets to consider a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that would legally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. However, the earliest this could happen based on Massachusetts law would be 2006. Marriages for same-gender couples are set to begin on May 17, 2004.

Text of the most recent opinion can be found at

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