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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Dissenting justice in Mass. ‘gay marriage’ case dies; …

BOSTON (BP)–One of the Massachusetts justices who in 2003 voted against the landmark “gay marriage” decision has died.

Martha B. Sosman, 56, died March 10 of respiratory failure following a battle with breast cancer, the Associated Press reported. She had been undergoing chemotherapy.

In November 2003, Sosman voted in the minority in the controversial Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision that made Massachusetts the first state in the nation to recognize “homosexual marriage.” The ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court — the highest one in the state — was decided by a 4-3 margin and was stayed for 180 days.

In a dissenting opinion, Sosman asserted the “decision must be made by the Legislature, not the court.” She also said it was too early to make any scientific determination about children raised by homosexual parents — as the majority opinion attempted to do.

“Gay and lesbian couples living together openly, and official recognition of them as their children’s sole parents, comprise a very recent phenomenon, and the recency of that phenomenon has not yet permitted any study of how those children fare as adults and at best minimal study of how they fare during their adolescent years,” she wrote. “… Our belief that children raised by same-sex couples should fare the same as children raised in traditional families is just that: a passionately held but utterly untested belief.”

In a follow-up opinion in a related case several months later, Sosman placed quotation marks around the word “marriage” when referring to “gay marriage” — apparently showing her personal opinion on the issue. In that decision, the majority of the court told the legislature that Vermont-style civil unions were not an option, and “gay marriage” had to be legalized. Sosman again was in the minority in another 4-3 split.

“It is beyond the ability of the Legislature — and even beyond the ability of this court, no matter how activist it becomes in support of this cause — to confer a package of benefits and obligations on same-sex ‘married’ couples that would be truly identical to the entire package of benefits and obligations that being ‘married’ confers on opposite-sex couples,” she wrote.

“That difference stems from the fact that, Goodridge notwithstanding, neither Federal law nor the law of other States will recognize same-sex couples as ‘married’ merely because Massachusetts has given them a license called a ‘marriage’ license.”

Sosman was appointed to the high court in 2000 by Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, a supporter of “gay marriage,” will appoint her replacement.

Sosman never married and is survived by a father and a sister, AP said.

“She was a wise judge and a good personal friend,” Patrick said, according to AP. “She leaves a great void on the Court.”

AGE MAKES DIFFERENCE IN MARRIAGE BELIEFS — Younger people in California are more accepting of “gay marriage” and over time will make the difference in the debate over the controversial issue, a study released March 8 found.

Two political scientists — Charles Gossett of California State Polytechnic University in Pomona and Gregory Lewis of Georgia State University — analyzed two decades worth of Field polls and found that those born in the 1970s and 1980s support “gay marriage” more than those born prior to that.

Using data from 2003-06, the study found that 58 percent of those born in the 1980s and 51 percent of those born in the 70s support “marriage” for homosexuals. That compares to 41 percent support for “gay marriage” from those born in the 1960s, 46 percent for those born in the 50s and 40 percent for those born in the 40s.

Also, support for “gay marriage” in the overall population has increased from 30 percent in 1985 to 43 percent in combined polls from 2003-06, the study said.

“It’s just a matter of time before a majority of California will be supportive of same-sex marriage,” Field poll director Mark DiCamillo told AP. “It may take 10 years to replace another decade within the age cohorts, but it’s clear every younger generation seems to be more accepting of that.”

Other nationwide surveys have shown teens more evenly split on the issue. A MacNeil/Lehrer Productions’ Generation Next poll released in January found that 47 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds support “gay marriage” while 46 percent oppose it. It surveyed 579 young people.

Early last year Gallup released a survey showing that teens ages 13-17 were almost evenly split on the issue of “gay marriage” with 51 percent supporting it and 49 percent opposing it.

Polls generally show that more than 60 percent of the general population opposes “gay marriage.”

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  • Michael Foust