How Brown Is Goodridge?: The Appropriation of a Legal Icon

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This article compares the two cases, Brown and Goodridge, to see in what ways they are alike and in what ways they are dissimilar – to judge how Brown Goodridge actually is. Much rides on this comparison. Brown is the most famous and most acclaimed court decision in American history. The abolition of “separate but equal” was the plain meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of “equal protection of the laws,” and thus correct in the legal sense. However, above all, abolishing “separate but equal” was the right thing to do morally. That doctrine’s abolition played a crucial role in helping rid the country of the scourge of racism. If the Goodridge decision can wrap itself in the mantle of Brown successfully, Goodridge will go a long way towards achieving public acceptance of gay marriage by a skeptical public and repudiating a legal tradition that had been unanimous in its understanding that marriage is only between a man and a woman.


Originally published by The Boston University Public Interest Law Journal in 2004.