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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 on November 18 that homosexuals should have the right to marry. The court gave the state legislature 180 days to craft a way for gay couples to legally wed. It did not, however, grant the 14 plaintiffs marriage licenses.

Christian activists say gay-rights groups will now file lawsuits to overturn existing state marriage laws. Currently, 37 states prohibit marriage between homosexuals.

Gay-rights activists said the Massachusetts decision would not force churches to provide religious rites to homosexuals.

"This ruling is not about religion," said the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group. "It's about the civil responsibilities and protections afforded through a government-issued civil marriage license."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, disagreed. "Marriage is about more than tax credits and other financial benefits," he said. "It is about preserving the best environment for raising children and the safest, healthiest living situation for adults."

A constitutional amendment is pending in the House of Representatives.

Matt Daniels of the Alliance for Marriage called on Congress to act. "[It] is essential to allow the American people to determine the future of marriage in America."

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Massachusetts court backs gay marriage
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In the Magazine

January 2004

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