BOSTON – Massachusetts’ highest court ruled Tuesday that same-sex couples are legally entitled to wed under the state constitution, but stopped short of allowing marriage licenses to be issued to the couples who challenged the law.
The Supreme Judicial Court’s 4-3 ruling ordered the Legislature to come up with a solution within 180 days.
The Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling closely matches the 1999 Vermont Supreme Court decision, which led there to the Legislature’s approval in 2000 of civil unions that give couples many of the same benefits of marriage.
The decision is the latest in a series of victories for gay rights advocates, but fell short of what the seven couples who sued the state had hoped to receive: the right to marry their longtime companion.
The Massachusetts question will now return to the Legislature, which already is considering a constitutional amendment that would legally define a marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The state’s powerful Speaker of the House, Tom Finneran of Boston, has endorsed this proposal.
A similar initiative, launched by citizens, was defeated by the Legislature last year on a procedural vote.