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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Ruling From State Supreme Court in Massachusetts on Gay Marriage

Aired February 4, 2004 - 11:25   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get back now to our breaking news out of the State of Massachusetts. A ruling from the state supreme court there on gay marriage. That state supreme court ruling that only full and equal marriage will satisfy that state constitution when it comes to gay couples and their rights.
With more on this, let's bring in Maria Hinojosa, who is standing by in New York City -- Maria, hello.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Daryn.

Well, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has just now handed down a decision that will allow same sex couples to be married in civil court for the first time in history. This decision makes Massachusetts the first state to say that same sex couples must be given the right to marry and afforded all of the rights that come with marriage.

Now, for gay and lesbian activists, this is a huge decision that is going to undoubtedly affect the future of the debate over gay marriage in this country.

Just a little bit of history, though. Back in April of 2001, seven same sex couples sued the State of Massachusetts, claiming that they were being treated as second class citizens because the state did not allow them to marry their same sex partners. Now, in November of last year, the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that, yes, in fact, the state was taking part in discrimination by not allowing its citizens to be treated equally simply because they were gay.

The court told the Massachusetts legislature to remedy this injustice immediately. The remedy, the legislature, rather, then threw this back to the court and said we need guidance. Could they simply follow the Vermont model of creating civil unions for gay couples, which is essentially all of the rights of marriage, except it isn't called marriage, or would the court accept nothing less than full fledged marriage between same sex couples?

Today's court decision means that this state will have to allow gays and lesbians to marry.

Now, this could be interesting for the presidential race because, of course, Senator John Kerry, the Democratic front runner, represents the State of Massachusetts and last night Senator Kerry said to Larry King that while he does not support gay marriage, he does believe in civil unions and he also said that he has argued on the Senate floor to protect the rights of gays and lesbian Americans.

President Bush, on the other hand, Daryn, has suggested that he would try and amend the U.S. constitution to stop gay marriages -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And talked about that during the State of the Union address. This appears to be headed for a huge confrontation. The president using language of activist judges when he was talking. It sounded specifically like the high court in Massachusetts.

HINOJOSA: You know, Daryn, the interesting thing is that you have to look at the history of Massachusetts. This is a state that takes their state constitution very seriously. They really do look at this as issues of people being treated equally under the law. So there was a lot of talk about well, this is a very complicated decision. But this particular state, the State of Massachusetts, has historically taken its state constitution and respecting the individual rights of its state citizens very seriously.

But one interesting note. Of course, this means that you can marry in Massachusetts, but this is not any recognition on the federal level of these gay marriages that will now be allowed in Massachusetts -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Right.

And, Maria, I'm also getting information that Massachusetts is set to have its constitutional convention next week. There is an amendment on the table to that state constitution that would define marriage as that of a union between a man and a woman. So a big ruling coming from the Massachusetts state supreme court today, yet this is not over yet. The debate goes on and intensifies.

Maria Hinojosa in New York, thank you.

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