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Goodridge v. Department of Public Health

Citation. Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Same-sex couples filed suit after being denied marriage licenses by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Massachusetts cannot prevent homosexual couples from getting married.


Seven same-sex couples filed suit against the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DOPH) after they were denied marriage licenses. DOPH’s defense was that the purpose of marriage is procreation, that heterosexual marriages provide are the healthiest environments in which to raise children, and preventing same-sex couples from marriage helps to preserve state resources. The trial court ruled in favor of the DOPH.


Whether Massachusetts can prevent homosexual couples from getting married?


No. Reversed.


(Spina, J.) The Massachusetts law does not violate equal protection because it does not discriminate on the matter of sex or sexual orientation. Men and women equally have a right to marry under Massachusetts law despite their sexual orientation, and the state should not create a new rights as it pertains to same-sex marriage.

(Sosman, J.) The court manipulated the rational basis standard to allow same-sex marriage although it is not constitutionally supported.

(Cordy, J.) The court could have concluded that the best household environment for children with same-sex parents. Similarly, the issue challenged in the statute was the ability for same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses.


There is no evidence that the purpose for marriage is to procreate or that children living in households with heterosexual parents grow up in a healthier environment than children who group in households with homosexual parents. Similarly, Massachusetts does not have laws deny or provide aid dependent on a couple’s marital status. Because the DOPH has not provided a rational basis to prevent same sex couples from marriage, the decision of the lower courts are reversed.

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