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Both Sides of 'Goodridge' Validate Polygamy

Date: Dec 09, 2003
Word Count: 1000 words
Cross-Reference: Goodridge, Massachusetts Court, "Same-Sex Marriage"


Without realizing it, arguments from both sides of the Massachusetts case show polygamy is valid.

On   November   18,   2003,   the   Massachusetts   State   Supreme   Judicial   Court   determined,   in   a   4-3   decision,   that   its   state   marriage   licensing   laws   were   unconstitutional   under   the   Massachusetts   State   Constitution.     In   deciding   the   Goodridge   (et   al.)   v.   Department   of   Public   Health   case,   the   Court   gave   the   Massachusetts   Legislature   180   days   to   solve   the   matter   so   that   such   "discrimination"   would   no   longer   occur   in   Massachusetts   law. 
 
Many   liberals   hailed   the   decision   and   many   conservatives   decried   it.     Without   realizing   it,   both   sides   end   up   validating   polygamy. 
 
The   case   involved   seven   separate   "same-sex   couples"   who   tried   to   obtain   marriage   licenses   in   Massachusetts   in   the   Spring   of   2001.     Because   they   were   not   opposite-sex   couples,   all   were   denied   such   licenses   by   the   state's   Department   of   Public   Health. 
 
They   filed   suit,   asserting   that   the   restriction   in   the   state's   marriage   law,   denying   their   access   to   marriage   licenses,   was   not   valid   on   two   state   constitutional   grounds.     They   argued   that   it   violates   "equal   protection"   under   the   law   and   the   right   to   "due   process   and   liberty"   to   marry   whom   they   choose. 
 
In   April,   2002,   a   Superior   Court   judge   ruled   against   them.     He   determined   that   not   granting   marriage   licenses   to   "same-sex   couples"   does   "rationally"   advance   the   state's   interest   in   protecting   the   reason   for   marriage,   procreation.     The   word,   "rational,"   would   become   the   most   vitally   important   factor   in   the   Goodridge   decision. 
 
The   case   was   then   appealed,   bringing   it   to   the   Massachusetts   Supreme   Judicial   Court.     It   was   first   thought   that   the   case   would   be   decided   by   mid-July   2003.     But   as   the   Lawrence   v.   Texas   case   had   just   been   decided   by   the   U.S.   Supreme   Court   only   a   short   three   weeks   theretofore,   deciding   the   Goodridge   case   was   delayed. 
 
When   they   finally   decided   it   on   November   18,   2003,   the   Court   addressed   the   two   grounds   asserted   by   the   plaintiffs.     The   majority   wrote,   "For   due   process   claims,   rational   basis   analysis   requires   that   statutes   'bear   a   real   and   substantial   relation   to   the   public   health,   safety,   morals,   or   some   other   phase   of   the   general   welfare.'     ...For   equal   protection   challenges,   the   rational   basis   test   requires   that   'an   impartial   lawmaker   could   logically   believe   that   the   classification   would   serve   a   legitimate   public   purpose   that   transcends   the   harm   to   the   members   of   the   disadvantaged   class.'" 
 
In   essence,   these   "rationality"   tests   place   the   burden   upon   the   State   to   both   provide   and   prove   a   rationale   of   greater   societal   good   being   achieved   in   order   to   justify   any   law   which   effectively   creates   harm   or   disadvantage   to   a   class   of   individuals. 
 
The   majority   made   it   clear,   "Any   law   failing   to   satisfy   the   basic   standards   of   rationality   is   void." 
 
The   Department   of   Public   Health,   therefore,   argued   three   rationales   for   such   marriage   restrictions.     They   asserted   that   the   State   must   limit   licensed   marriages   to   only   "opposite-sex   couples"   in   order   to   provide   "a   favorable   setting   for   procreation,"   to   ensure   "the   optimal   setting   for   child   rearing,"   and   to   preserve   "scarce   State   and   private   financial   resources." 
 
The   Court's   majority   refuted   all   three   rationales. 
 
First,   since   the   law   does   neither   deny   nor   forbid   infertile,   post-fertile,   or   non-coital   marriages,   a   "procreation"   requirement   for   marriage   licenses   is   not   rational. 
 
Second,   "excluding   same-sex   couples   from   civil   marriage   will   not   make   children   of   opposite-sex   marriages   more   secure,"   the   majority   declared.     Since   marriage   licenses   are   not   denied   to   selfish,   "less-optimal"   parents   for   "opposite-sex   marriages,"   an   "optimal   child-rearing   environment"   requirement   for   marriage   licenses   is   not   rational. 
 
Third,   since   the   law   grants   marriage   licenses   to   "opposite-sex   couples"   regardless   of   need   -   or   non-need   -   for   state   services   or   assistance,   the   argument   of   "preserving   scarce   State   resources"   for   denying   marriage   licenses   to   others   is   not   rational. 
 
In   overturning   the   lower   court's   decision,   the   majority   decided,   "The   marriage   ban   works   a   deep   and   scarring   hardship   on   a   very   real   segment   of   the   community   for   no   rational   reason.   The   absence   of   any   reasonable   relationship   between,   on   the   one   hand,   an   absolute   disqualification   of   same-sex   couples   who   wish   to   enter   into   civil   marriage   and,   on   the   other,   protection   of   public   health,   safety,   or   general   welfare,   suggests   that   the   marriage   restriction   is   rooted   in   persistent   prejudices...   Limiting   the   protections,   benefits,   and   obligations   of   civil   marriage   to   opposite-sex   couples   violates   the   basic   premises   of   individual   liberty   and   equality   under   law   protected   by   the   Massachusetts   Constitution."    
 
In   a   pair   of   dueling   footnotes,   the   Court's   majority   and   the   dissenting   minority   briefly   addressed   that   decision's   ramifications   regarding   polygamy. 
 
The   majority   wrote,   "Nothing   in   our   opinion   today   should   be   construed   as   relaxing   or   abrogating   the...   polygamous   prohibitions   of   our   marriage   laws." 
 
But   the   dissenting   minority   pointed   out   that   the   decision   could   equally   transform   other   restrictions   "on   marriage   into   an   infringement   of   a   right   of   fundamental   importance.   For   example,   if   one   assumes   that   a   group   of   mature,   consenting,   committed   adults   can   form   a   'marriage,'   the   prohibition   on   polygamy...   infringes   on   their   'right'   to   'marry.'" 
 
Indeed.     To   see   the   obviousness   of   that,   one   need   only   to   replace   the   words,   "same-sex   couples,"   with   (consenting-adult)   "polygamous   families"   in   the   majority's   refutations   of   the   Department's   asserted   rationales,   and   in   every   other   place   of   the   majority's   opinion.     The   majority   may   deny   it   all   they   want,   but   they   absolutely   did   validate   consenting-adult   polygamy.      
 
However,   the   Court's   majority   and   its   supporters   are   not   the   only   ones   hereby   validating   polygamy.     Those   who   support   the   Department's   three   rationales   for   the   marriage   restrictions   -   as   many   conservatives   argue   those   very   points   -   unwittingly   end   up   validating   polygamy   too. 
 
First,   polygamy   creates   an   even   more   "favorable   setting   for   procreation." 
 
Second,   polygamy   empowers   wives   who   want   to   stay   home   with   the   children,   equally   empowering   other   wives   who   want   to   work.     It   motivates   men   to   profound   maturity   and   responsibility.     Children   can   be   raised   at   home   by   family   members   who   love   them   -   rather   than   being   raised   by   low-paid   strangers   at   daycare.     Unquestionably,   that   creates   an   "optimal   setting   for   child   rearing." 
 
Third,   polygamy   can   free   abandoned   single   moms   from   the   "work-just-to-pay-for-day-care"   cycle,   empowering   them   to   leave   or   avoid   the   welfare   trap.     That   helps   to   preserve   "scarce   State   and   private   financial   resources." 
 
Talk   about   validating   polygamy!     Just   as   supporters   of   the   majority's   decision   obviously   validate   polygamy,   all   who   oppose   the   decision,   arguing   those   rationales,   also   validate   polygamy   -   perhaps,   even   moreso. 
 
Hence,   Goodridge   reveals   what   everyone   agrees.     Consenting-adult   polygamy   is   valid. 


###


Bibliographic URLs:

http://www.malawyersweekly.com/archives/ma/opin/sup/1017603.htm 




UPDATE ADDED PDF-FILE URL 2012-11-26:
http://fl1.findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/wp/docs/conlaw/goodridge111803opn.pdf







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