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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Ruling From Massachusetts State Supreme Court on Gay Marriage

Aired February 4, 2004 - 11:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news coming out of Massachusetts on the issue of gay marriage and an important ruling from the Massachusetts State Supreme Court. Today, that high court in Massachusetts has ruled that only full equal marriage rights for gay couples, rather than civil unions, will satisfy and meet the edict of their ruling back in November and meet what they believe is the demands and the levels set by the state constitution.
You might remember back in November they came up with a ruling saying that gay couples must be allowed to marry and they kicked that over to the state legislature, giving them 180 days to come up with a way to satisfy their ruling. Well, the state senate kicked it back to the supreme court, asking would civil unions, like in the case of Vermont, would that satisfy the state constitution in Massachusetts? And today the state high court of Massachusetts saying that, in fact, no, that will not.

Let's bring in Kendall Coffey, legal adviser and guest, from Miami -- Kendall, this is huge news that will reverberate across the nation, one of the most divisive issues in America today, the issue of gay marriage.

KENDALL COFFEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's phase two of what was already a landmark decision, Daryn.

We all recall that when the case was announced some months ago, it was the first time a state supreme court had gone as far as it had in saying that there was a violation of equal protection under the state constitution and that that had to be remedied. There seemed to be some ambiguity as to whether it meant civil union or marriage. Now we know, it's marriage full and equal rights for gay couples.

KAGAN: Well, at least according to the state high court in Massachusetts, this could be leading to a showdown with the federal government. We heard President Bush in the State of the Union address talk about what he called activist judges, saying that if they take it a step further, which now it appears the state high court in Massachusetts has done, that he would support a constitutional amendment that would ban or could ban gay marriage.

COFFEY: From the state supreme court of leading contender John Kerry's own state. Clearly, this is being elevated into the presidential debate. In the meantime, it's going to be fascinating to see what other states do, especially with state supreme courts, where they have the ability to construe their own state constitutions, their own state equal protection laws, as did the Massachusetts court, irrespective of how the U.S. Supreme Court might treat the federal counterpart in terms of the equal protection laws.

KAGAN: All right, Kendall Coffey, thanks for your input on that.

We're going to have much more on this just ahead.

But once again, the breaking news coming out of Massachusetts. The state supreme court ruling that only marriage and full and equal marriage is a right of gay couples and civil unions, as it is in Vermont, will not satisfy the state constitution in Massachusetts. More on this just ahead.

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