Julie and Hillary Goodridge are the plaintiffs in the famous Massachusetts court case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. It went all the way to the state Judicial Supreme Court, where in a 4-3 ruling on November 18, 2003, the court ruled that since the state’s constitution “affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals [and] forbids the creation of second-class citizens,” the state must therefore grant them a marriage license.
Though the United States Supreme Court majority opinion in in the case of Lawrence v. Texas the explicitly ruled out using their decision as providing support for gay marriage, the Massachusetts Supreme Court cited it as support for their decision, though the Massachusetts court’s ruling was based solely on their reading of the state constitution, not the federal one.
After some additional appeals and other delays, the state began allowing same sex couples to be married on May 17, 2004. In the intervening years, over 10,000 gay couples have gotten married in the state, and all attempts to amend the constitution or have the federal Supreme Court overrule the state court decision have failed.
Julie and Hillary Goodridge were among the first couples to be married in Massachusetts on that very first day it became legal. Two years later, after nearly twenty years of being a couple together, they separated. They took the same last name ten years prior to their separation upon the birth of their daughter, Annie.
Some news articles cite the difficulty and pressure of being a public face does to a relationship. That is true, and compared to the extremely ugly high profile heterosexual divorces we see in the media. Do I even need to list them all? The least news-attuned person in the world could easily list a dozen of them. Perhaps one slightly less-known would be illustrative. Without sordid accusations about BDSM sex club visits being unsealed from the custody battle of the divorcing couple Jack and Jeri Ryan, Barack Obama would not be president of the United States today.
Despite all that, however, I still say: live by the sword, die by the sword. If the very basis of your appeal is a personal one, based entirely on your personal life and your example, then you should not be able to demand that that suddenly all be disregarded the moment it is no longer a heartwarming and salutary story. If you’re going to hold up the Goodridge’s as a model and an example, then all of these facts are relevant.
I haven’t found any comments to the press on the part of either Julie or Hillary Goodridge. But perhaps their separation can be just as much a model as their marriage in a mature, amicable separation. (Because biology’s laws cannot be repealed by judicial fiat or even disregard, determining custody in even the most amicable of gay divorces is inevitably more complicated and messy, since there is either a sperm donor, an egg donor, and/or a surrogate involved in addition to the divorcing couple, and they also have certain rights, or at least come to believe they do. And then if either party to divorce crosses state lines to a different state where gay marriage let alone gay divorce is not recognized, it gets even more complicated. For all these reasons, some of the custody battles in these cases have been truly epic.
At any rate, perhaps it’s about time for a remake of Kramer vs. Kramer? Goodridge vs. Goodridge has a nice ring to it…
UPDATE: Hillary Goodridge herself commented on this post, indicating that their separation continues to be amicable with no issues.