Early Cases Massachusetts

In Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (2003), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the ban on same-sex marriages did not survive rational relationship review under the state constitution’s equal protection guarantee.

Unlike the Vermont decision, there is no historical analysis of the constitution — instead, the court relies on a common law approach of building on prior decisions that tested legislation against the equal protection guaranty.  The Massachusetts equal protection guaranty was adopted as an “equal rights amendment” and is very specific, identifying the protected classes: 

Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.

The majority opinion, however, did not rely explicitly on this clause.  Instead, it ruled:

The individual liberty and equality safeguards of the Massachusetts Constitution protect both “freedom from”unwarranted government intrusion into protected spheres of life and “freedom to” partake in benefits created by the State for the common good.

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