Massachusetts AG optimistic court to OK gay marriage rights

Healey is planning to be in the courtroom Tuesday

Supreme Court hears same-sex marriage case

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says she’s cautiously optimistic the Supreme Court will rule in favor of gay marriage.

Healey is planning to be in the courtroom Tuesday when the nation’s highest court hears oral arguments in four states’ same-sex marriage cases.

“It’s my hope that the court will rule the right way … and allow people to marry the person they love,” Healey said in an interview with The Associated Press. “This is an issue that obviously I care deeply about, that this office has cared deeply about for a long time now.”

Massachusetts has allowed gay marriages since 2004. It was the first state to legalize full marriage rights for same sex couples.

In one of her first acts as attorney general after her election last year, Healey submitted a brief to the Supreme Court arguing in favor of gay marriage. She used the stories of married couples to show the benefits that the expansion of marriage rights in Massachusetts has had over the past decade.

Massachusetts was joined by 15 other states and Washington D.C. in the brief filed by Healey.

“It was kind of poignant for me because it was the first time my name appeared on a brief as AG,” said Healey, the nation’s first openly gay elected attorney general.

By the end of June the justices are expected to rule on whether such marriages — now allowed in 36 states — should be recognized nationwide.

Before she was elected attorney general Healey served as chief of the civil rights division under former Attorney General Martha Coakley, where she helped lead the fight against the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Healey argued before a federal judge in 2010 that the 1996 law could result in the denial of Medicaid and other federal benefits to married gay couples in Massachusetts.

In 2013, the Supreme Court overturned a key part of the law, allowing married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

Healey said she has been surprised by how quickly the nation has embraced gay marriage rights.

“We’re on the cusp of having this issue decided once and for all,” she said.

Healey has plenty of company in Massachusetts, including the state’s newly elected Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who has also signed a “friend of the court” brief in support of gay marriage.

Baker said his family experience led him to conclude that there was no moral or legal justification for states to prohibit gay marriage.

“I have a brother who is gay, he lives in Massachusetts, he’s married,” Baker told reporters last month.

Healey said that despite helping lead the way on gay marriage, Massachusetts still has work to do to ensure the rights of all citizens.

Healey said she’s particularly concerned about protecting the civil rights of transgender residents and keeping lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people safe.

She said LBGT youth are more likely to be bullied, to run away from home, or to attempt suicide at higher rates than other young people.

“I hope that one day soon a day will come when being gay or transgender makes no difference at all,” she said.

Copyright 2015 Associated Press

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