As the United States Supreme Court prepares to hear two cases next week involving same-sex marriage laws, it seems fitting to reprint an excerpt from Goodridge vs. Department of Health, the landmark Massachusetts case which found that same-sex couples have the right to marry in that state. I first became aware of this excerpt when a couple told me that they wanted to use it as a reading for their civil union ceremony. Since then, both same-sex and hetero couples have requested this reading. Some consider it a political statement, others simply a good definition of marriage. Take a look and see what you think. Me? I think it is both!
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.” Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.
(Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall)