20 years of marriage equality in Massachusetts

It was 20 years ago this week (on May 17, 2004, to be exact), that the first marriage licenses were issued by cities and towns across Massachusetts for same-sex couples.

 The marriage licenses were precipitated by the decision by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court in November in the Goodridge case, which declared that same sex couples were entitled to the same legal protections and rights as heterosexual couples.

It’s hard to imagine, with 20/20 hindsight, that marriage equality ever was an issue. There is not — and never has been — a justification for not allowing two adults to marry the person of their choosing in order to enjoy the legal status and privileges that marriage conveys.

But back in 2004, in the immediate aftermath of the Goodridge decision, there were many members of our state legislature, both Democrats and Republicans, who were talking of holding a Constitutional Convention in order to amend the state constitution to allow same-sex couples to have only so-called civil unions, not full marriage.

Massachusetts was an outlier in 2004 and fortunately the effort to call for a Constitutional Convention failed. Soon thereafter, other states allowed same-sex marriages and then in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in the Obergefell v Hodges cases that all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

However, public opinion was way ahead of the courts. Modern Family, the hit TV comedy show that started in 2007, included a gay couple among its characters. Today, polls consistently show that more than 70 percent of Americans across all party lines support same-sex marriage.

To be sure, there still is much to be done to assure equal protection of all rights for our fellow Americans of the LGTBQIA+  community. But it is worth noting the events of 20 years ago to acknowledge the momentous changes that have taken place in the course of one generation.

Plastic, plastic everywhere

In the classic 1967 movie, the Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate, is taken aside by a family friend at his graduation party, who says to him, “Ben, I just have one word of advice for you. Are you listening? ‘Plastics’. There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”

“Yes sir,” Benjamin replies meekly.

In 1967, plastics were nowhere near as ubiquitous as they are in 2024. But the advice given to Benjamin was prescient — today, plastics, which are petroleum-based, are used for just about everything in our daily lives.

The problem is, plastics also are in everything, including our bodies. According to scientists, microplastics are flowing through every one of our organs and tissues, and the same is true for just about every animal on earth.

In addition, very little of the plastic that we generate is recyclable. We may think of ourselves as being virtuous when we dutifully recycle all of our plastic items every week, but a recent survey revealed that only about six percent of plastic items are recycled and that much of what is labeled as “recyclable” really is not recyclable at all. Those hard-plastic containers that hold our laundry detergent, for example, can be recycled only at a very few facilities across the country, which means that almost all of them end up in landfills, where they eventually disintegrate and make their way into the food chain and our water — and into our bodies.

Almost 60 years after the Graduate, we are drowning — literally — in a sea of plastics, and with the demand for plastics ever-increasing, the problem is only going to get worse. It is estimated that by 2050, the demand for plastics will triple and the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans actually will outweigh the fish. 

Yes, as foretold in 1967, the future was indeed, “Plastics.” 

But that future — today’s present — turned out to be a grim one.

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