Lessons from Massachusetts on Gay Marriage — and Divorce

Photo via Mary Schwalm / USA Today / RNS

Hillary Goodridge, right, and Julie Goodridge talk about their hope for the future. Photo via Mary Schwalm / USA Today / RNS

Same-­sex marriage is so last decade in Massachusetts. These days, the earliest pioneers in gay and lesbian matrimony are demonstrating how to raise kids, retire — even divorce.

As the Supreme Court wrestles with what Chief Justice John Roberts last month labeled a redefinition of marriage, the couples who successfully challenged the Bay State’s ban on gay marriage in 2003 are juggling work and retirement, raising kids who turn down Ivy League colleges, and holding joyful family reunions.

Atheists Lose Fight Over 'Under God' at Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Andrew Hall, an atheist and father, demonstrates outside the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Photo by G. Jeffrey MacDonald.

The highest court in Massachusetts upheld the legality of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance on Friday, dealing a blow to atheist groups who challenged the pledge on anti-discrimination grounds.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said the daily, teacher-led recitation of the pledge in state public schools does not violate the state’s equal rights amendment and is not discriminatory against the children of atheists, humanists, and other nontheists.

“Participation is entirely voluntary,” the court wrote as a whole in the decision of Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, brought by an anonymous humanist family. “[A]ll students are presented with the same options; and one student’s choice not to participate because of a religiously held belief is, as both a practical and a legal matter, indistinguishable from another’s choice to abstain for a wholly different, more mundane, and constitutionally insignificant reason.”

The ruling marks the second legal loss for atheists this week. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sectarian prayers given before government meetings were not a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of separation of church and state.

Mass. Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Pledge of Allegiance

American flag in a school. Photo via RNS/

American flag in a school. Photo via RNS/

Massachusetts’ highest court on Wednesday will consider whether the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is a violation of students’ rights.

Since the addition of the phrase “under God” in 1954, the pledge has been challenged repeatedly as a violation of the separation of church and state. In 2004, one case reached the Supreme Court, but ultimately failed, as have all previous challenges.

But the current case before the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, is different because lawyers for the plaintiffs, an anonymous atheist couple, won’t be arguing about federal law but rather that the compulsory recitation of the pledge violates the state’s equal rights laws. They argue that the daily recitation of the pledge is a violation of their guarantee of equal protection under those laws.

Keystone XL: People of Faith Say 'All Risk, No Reward'

Photo by © Steven Edson

Richard Cizik at the anti-Keystone Faith Rally in Boston. Photo by © Steven Edson

A pipeline that will run from Canada, through the Midwest, and down to the Gulf Coast, the purpose of Keystone is to transport tar sands oil, which is more toxic than conventional oil, to ports where it can be processed and shipped overseas. In fact, the only oil that is guaranteed to stay in the U.S. is what will be spilled in communities and on farmlands. We saw this happen recently when a similar pipeline spilled in Arkansas. And, as for the promise of jobs, independent studies say fewer than 50 permanent jobs will be created by this project. Keystone is a deal in which America gets all the risk without any reward.

It's time for our leaders to take a stand and to stop supporting projects that only perpetuate our dependence on toxic, dirty sources of energy that contribute to climate change. But in the world of politics, it's not enough for something to be a moral imperative to get people to act. It is the nature of politics, and democracy, that our leaders respond when they feel the political pressure to do so. As people of faith, we have a powerful voice in our country. Keystone would not have been an issue in the Massachusetts Senate race if local religious communities had not made it clear that it is important.

Defending (and Empowering) the Vulnerable



Through the wreckage of the Penn State abuse scandal, we’ve all become witnesses to what happens when our principles of justice are not assured for those who most need them.

When we see people in positions of power and authority — particularly those who have held a huge amount of respect and clout in a community — fail to protect the vulnerable in our society, it moves something within society’s collective conscience.

I imagine that the questions people all around the country asked when the news broke were similar:

How could this happen? Who wasn’t living up to our expectations? How can we make sure that something like this never happens again?

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