The Freedom to Marry in Massachusetts

Winning Marriage: May 17, 2004

Same-sex couples began marrying in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004 after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in a state legal case challenging the state’s anti-marriage laws on November 18, 2003. Massachusetts is the first U.S. state where same-sex couples won the freedom to marry. 

History and the Path to Victory:

  • April 11, 2001: After defeating several attempts to pass anti-marriage legislation in Massachusetts, same-sex couples and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders file a legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Massachusetts.  The case is Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.
  • May 7, 2002: Suffolk County Superior Judge Thomas E. Connolly rules against the freedom to marry in the Goodridge case, and plaintiffs appeal the decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
  • November 18, 2003: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that there is no rational basis under the law to deny a marriage license to same-sex couples.
  • May 17, 2004: The freedom to marry takes effect in Massachusetts, and same-sex couples begin marrying for the first time ever in the United States of America.
  • 2004-2007: Led by MassEquality, the state of Massachusetts – and dozens of lawmakers – engages in a conversation about why marriage matters, and supporters in the Bay State take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families. MassEquality and others lead a robust campaign to defend and preserve the Goodridge victory.
  • June 2007: In a 151 to 45 vote, the Massachusetts Legislature defeats a proposed constitutional amendment that sought to repeal the freedom to marry in Massachusetts. The amendment had previously passed the first hurdle of being moved to the ballot but, with intense statewide conversations, marriage supporters are able to turn the tide and persuade legislators to stand on the right side of history.
  • July 2008: Governor Deval Patrick signs a law allowing same-sex couples from outside of Massachusetts to marry in the state.
  • March 2012: Polling in Massachusetts tracks majority support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of passing the freedom to marry in the state.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage for same-sex couples, bringing the freedom to marry to Michigan once and for all.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • MassEquality was a coalition of local and national organizations defending equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.
  • Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England's leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression.