The U.S. Supreme Court, on the brink of issuing two same-sex-marriage decisions, is facing a question that Margaret Marshall had to resolve for her state a decade ago, as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Her decision became the first to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States. "Barred access to the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage, a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community's most rewarding and cherished institutions," she wrote in 2003. "That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under the law." Marshall's opinion back then hit the body politic like a bomb, making headlines across the globe. A subsequent attempt to undo the ruling with a state constitutional amendment failed.
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