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This month marks the 10th anniversary of the historic Goodridge decision in Massachusetts that granted marriage to its gay and lesbian citizens. That decision remains one of the most eloquent tributes to the institution of marriage and why government cannot deny that fundamental freedom to loving same-sex couples.
It also captures so much of what my nearly 40-year marriage has meant to me, my husband and our family and I am not alone. Passages from the Goodridge decision have become one of the most common readings at weddings — gay and straight — across the country.
Here’s part of what Margaret Marshall wrote in the court’s decision:
“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 fulfills 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.”
Like most of us, I’ve been lucky enough to have gay friends and family members whom I cherish. I just can’t imagine denying any of them the joy and, yes, the rights and benefits that only flow from marriage.
Some will recall that as attorney general, I stopped the Rio Rancho county clerk from issuing marriage licenses. But that had nothing to do with the constitutionality of same-sex marriage and everything to do with individual county clerks acting on their own without the law behind them.
I applaud the clerks for asking for a swift resolution by the state Supreme Court of the current checkerboard, where some counties grant marriage licenses and others do not.
While I’m hopeful the state Supreme Court will grant marriage equality in New Mexico, I believe that is where the issue should be decided. The legislature should resist any temptation to continue to make marriage a divisive issue.
New Mexico has always been a land of freedom, of live and let live and we all try to apply the Golden Rule — to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves. To me, that speaks directly to the freedom to marry. Marriage has been the cornerstone of my life, and I hope that soon in New Mexico, our gay and lesbian friends, neighbors and family members can have that same mix of celebration and security.
Patricia A. Madrid is the former Attorney General of New Mexico.