Important Dates in the History of Massachusetts' Gay Marriage Debate

( [email protected] ) May 15, 2004 08:49 AM EDT

Below is a list of important dates relating to the issue of gay marriage in Massachusetts released by the Associated Press. On Monday, May 17, 2004, it is expected that Massachusetts will become the first state that sanctions gay marriage in the U.S.

Meanwhile, various pro-family groups across the nation are taking action to stop the issuance of gay marriage licenses in any way possible. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First District denied an emergency request for injunctive relief filed by conservative groups Friday, May 14, but granted an appeals hearing for next month.

Liberty Counsel, which is playing the major role to block gay marriage, said it has already filed appeal papers with the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to nip gay marriage in the bud before it becomes legal in Massachusetts on Monday.

"We've already filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court," said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel. "We haven't exhausted every appeal, the legal battle is just beginning. We're optimistic that one of the courts will rule in our favor."

Chester Darling, a lawyer representing one of four conservative groups that filed the suit, said "we were denied by the appeals court and we are now at the Supreme Court. We are seeking a stay and we should hear by Monday."

April 11, 2001 — Seven same-sex couples, denied marriage licenses, sue in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston to challenge the state's gay marriage ban.

May 8, 2002 — Suffolk Superior Court judge rules against granting marriage licenses to seven gay couples, saying the legality of same-sex marriage should be decided by the Legislature, not the courts.

July 17, 2002 — Lawmakers adjourn constitutional convention without taking a vote on amendment that would have banned gay marriage in the state. The amendment was initiated by a petition signed by 130,000 citizens.

March 4, 2003 — The state Supreme Judicial Court hears arguments in case brought by the seven gay couples to legalize same-sex marriage.

Nov. 18, 2003 — The SJC rules it was unconstitutional to bar gay couples from marriage, and gives the Legislature 180 days to come up with a solution to allow gays to wed. President Bush (news - web sites) criticizes the decision and vows to work with Congress to "defend the sanctity of marriage."

Nov. 29, 2003 — The state's four Catholic bishops called the SJC decision a "national tragedy" in a letter read at Sunday Masses across the state.

Dec. 11, 2003 — The Massachusetts Senate votes to ask the SJC if Vermont-style civil unions would satisfy the court's decision legalizing gay marriage.

Dec. 28, 2003 — Pope John Paul (news - web sites) II calls for greater defense of the institution of marriage between man and woman, saying a "misunderstood sense of rights" was altering it.

Feb. 3 — Massachusetts' House delegation sends state lawmakers a letter urging them to defeat a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Feb. 4 — The SJC clarifies its earlier ruling, saying only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples — rather than civil unions — are constitutional.

Feb. 11 — Massachusetts Legislature opens constitutional convention with debate on a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Feb. 12 — Lawmakers adjourn convention deadlocked, after failing to pass three separate proposed bans on same-sex marriage.

March 11 — Lawmakers recess constitutional convention, but come steps closer to passing a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and allow for civil unions. Legislators agree to reconvene on March 29.

March 29 — State Legislature approves proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage but legalize Vermont-style civil unions.

May 17 — Same-sex weddings slated to begin across Massachusetts.