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  The majority
Margaret H. Marshall
Age: 59
Appointment: 1996, Weld
Appointment to chief justice: 1999, Cellucci
The second woman to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court, and the first to lead the oldest court in the Western Hemisphere. The South Africa native gained attention as a student leader of protests against apartheid. She is seen as a liberal influence on the court and has written many notable decisions on family law.
Judith A. Cowin
Age: 61
Appointment: 1999, Cellucci
As a former Norfolk County prosecutor, she was known for her passion for juicy cases — and for winning nearly every case she tried. She has been seen as one of the court's more conservative voices, and is not afraid to write a strong dissent. In one recent dissent, she accused the majority justices of ignoring the intent of a law to reach the result they wanted.
John M. Greaney
Age: 64
Appointment: 1989, Dukakis
The only appointee of a Democrat governor, Greaney has been on the Supreme Court bench longer than any other justice. He and Spina are the court's two representatives of Western Massachusetts. In 2009, Greaney will be the first of the court's current justices to reach the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Roderick L. Ireland
Age: 58
Appointment: 1997, Weld
The first African-American appointed to the court in its then 305-year history. A long-time juvenile court judge, he is seen as a strong advocate for children's rights. Ireland, who began his career with the Roxbury Defenders Committee, served for seven years on the Appeals Court.
  The dissenters
Robert J. Cordy
Age: 54
Appointment: 2001, Cellucci
He is the SJC's newest member, joining the court in early 2001. Cordy was chief legal counsel to Gov. William F. Weld, but he had no prior judicial experience before his appointment to the Supreme Judicial Court. Cordy has written many of the court's criminal decisions.
Martha B. Sosman
Age: 53
Appointment: 2000, Cellucci
A former prosecutor in the US Attorney's office, she is one of the court's most vocal questioners. She agreed with Gov. Paul Cellucci's assessment of her as a conservative justice when he appointed her in 2000. She wrote a sharply worded dissent to the SJC's majority decision last year to uphold the state's grandparent visitation law.
Francis X. Spina
Age: 57
Appointment: 1999, Cellucci
The former Berkshire prosecutor also worked in private practice and as a judge in Superior Court and the Appeals Court.
After the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November 2003 that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the state Constitution, the state Senate asked the high court for an opinion on a proposed law that would ban marriage for same-sex couples, but create civil unions instead. On Feb. 3, 2004, a four-justice majority of the court ruled that such a law would be unconstitutional. Three justices dissented.

SJC affirms gay marriage

(By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff, 2/5/04)
The Supreme Judicial Court on Feb. 5 put Massachusetts on course to become the first state in the nation to allow gays to marry, deciding that a proposed civil unions bill for gay couples would establish "an unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples."
 Justices' opinions reveal deep division (By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 2/5/04)
 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: Legislators' vote due on same-sex measure (By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff, 2/5/04)
 REACTIONS: Officials, state legislators ponder their next moves (By Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff, 2/5/04)
 IN THEIR WORDS: 'Separate is seldom. . . equal' (Boston Globe, 2/5/04)
In Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Nov. 18, 2003 that same-sex couples have the legal right to marry under the state Constitution. Four justices made up the majority; three dissented.

Gays have right to marry,
SJC says in historic ruling

(By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 11/19/03)
In a historic and long-awaited decision, a deeply split Supreme Judicial Court on Nov. 18 ushered in a new era of gay rights, becoming the nation's first state supreme court to rule that same-sex couples have the legal right to marry.
Text of decision: Microsoft Word | Adobe Acrobat (PDF)
Government response
 Lawmakers are divided on response (By Frank Phillips and Rick Klein, Globe Staff, 11/19/03)
 NEWS ANALYSIS: Some Republicans see decision as a stance to run against in '04 (By Anne E. Kornblut, Globe Staff, 11/19/03)
 THE CANDIDATES: Most are cautious in voicing support (By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff, 11/19/03)
Public reaction
 Among same-sex couples, proposals, tears flow (By Yvonne Abraham, Globe Staff, 11/19/03)
 RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY: Strong, divided opinions mark clergy response (By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 11/19/03)
 ON THE STREET: Some wonder, others welcome decision (By Donovan Slack, Globe Correspondent, 11/19/03)
Legal consequences
 STATES' DIFFERENCES: Legal conflicts to take years to develop, some analysts say (By Lyle Denniston, Globe Correspondent,
and Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff, Boston Globe, 11/19/03)
 WORKPLACE IMPACT: Employee benefits in line to be extended (By Kimberly Blanton, Globe Staff, 11/19/03)
 CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: Ruling extends 20 years of cases (By Thanassis Cambanis, Globe Staff, 11/19/03)
Plaintiffs' argument
The seven couples, represented by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, were denied marriage licenses at their local city and town halls when they applied for them. They sought a declaration from the court that they were entitled to marriage licenses under Massachusetts law.
Defendant's argument
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, charged with enforcing the state's marriage laws, was the defendant in the case. Lawyers for the state argued that the state's marriage laws weren't intended to apply to gay couples. The ban on same-sex marriage, they said, did violate the constitutional rights of gay couples.
Court's decision
Barring gay couples from civil marriage violates the Massachusetts constitution, according to a Nov. 18, 2003 ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court. The court gave the state legislature 180 days to comply with the decision.
Sponsored Links
resources
Case documents
Major documents filed in Goodridge vs. Mass. DPH case.
Web links
Web sites related to the gay marriage issue.
Globe/WBZ-TV Poll
50 percent back SJC ruling
A poll taken shortly after the SJC's ruling indicated half of Massachusetts residents agree with the justices' decision.
Graphic: Results
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