In late 2003, the Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision paved the way for Massachusetts to become the first state in this country to achieve marriage equality. Though more than a decade ago, the Goodridge case undoubtedly left its fingerprints on the LGBTQ community; 19 states and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex couples to marry freely. Earlier this month, the Attorney General’s Office led a multi-state effort to encourage the Supreme Court to address the tidal wave of marriage equality cases that have sprung up across the nation.
As plaintiffs in the Goodridge case, we know first-hand the fight that went into procuring the fundamental right for same-sex couples to have their relationships legally recognized. On May 17, 2004 when we married our partners and experienced the joy of knowing that our second-class status in Massachusetts was finally over, we rejoiced!
However, marriage equality was only the first step in a larger fight for the LGBTQ community. Did you know that transgender people can be discriminated against in public spaces? Can you believe that LGBTQ elders face discrimination and stigma when seeking health and social services? It’s hard to think that nearly 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, that our schools currently don’t teach comprehensive sex education to our children, or that licensed mental health professionals can legally attempt to “change” the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor.
Now more than ever we need champions. And luckily, we have them. Gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley and attorney general candidate Maura Healey have spent several years blazing a trail for LGBTQ rights.
Case in point: Do you remember the insidious Defense of Marriage Act, the oppressive piece of legislation that denied more than 1,100 federal marriage benefits to legally married same-sex couples? Massachusetts was the first state in the country to successfully challenge and defeat that law. Attorney General Martha Coakley, with the strong support of Maura Healey ─ who was the chief of the Massachusetts AGO’s Civil Rights Division ─ argued for its abolishment in the U.S. District Court on behalf of Massachusetts residents affected by DOMA. On July 8, 2010, the District Court issued the first-ever decision in the country to rule that DOMA was unconstitutional. Not only did the decision affect Massachusetts’ same-sex couples, but every other state in the country with marriage equality.
Martha Coakley filed an amicus brief arguing that Proposition 8 in California violated same-sex couples’ 14th Amendment rights to equal protections. She convinced 13 other state attorneys general to join her and lead the multi-state effort to file the brief. With an innate sense of justice, she advocated for marriage equality in California. Was she obligated to do this? No. However, seeing an insufferable injustice being carried out on the LGBTQ community in California, she decided to fight and convince others to join her. [pullquote]Martha Coakley filed an amicus brief arguing that Proposition 8 in California violated same-sex couples’ 14th Amendment rights to equal protections. She convinced 13 other state attorneys general to join her and lead the multi-state effort to file the brief. [/pullquote]
Martha testified in support of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill and worked hard to ensure that it passed. While other elected officials shied away from a divisive issue, she had a strong sense of justice and compassion that made her a dogged advocate for the legislation. Maura Healey, as head of the Civil Rights Division, was also an advocate for this legislation and helped advise lawmakers on crafting the bill.
Martha Coakley and Maura Healey worked together to author one of the strongest pieces of anti-bullying legislation in the country and helped ensure that it had language to protect LGBTQ youth. They helped train law enforcement officials on addressing hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Commonwealth.
These two leaders have been strong civil rights advocates, not just on LGBTQ rights, but on a range of other pertinent issues, from reproductive rights to healthcare disparities, to economic inequalities. They both have clear and consistent records of rolling up their shirt sleeves and fighting for justice.
Marriage equality was a tremendous first step forward for LGBTQ people in our Commonwealth. But to rest on our laurels now would be perilous. We owe it to ourselves to elect a governor and attorney general who can carry the torch even further by ensuring justice for everyone.
Think of the amazing work Martha and Maura have done while working in the Attorney General’s Office, side-by-side. Just think what our Commonwealth will be like with Martha Coakley as governor and Maura Healey as attorney general. They will not only be statewide leaders, but national role models as well, showing other states what true progressivism looks like.
This is a vital opportunity for the LGBTQ community and the Commonwealth as a whole. Let’s put partisan politics and rhetoric aside and look at the facts. Quite frankly, those facts speak for themselves.
[From a News Release]