The Massachusetts chief justice who voted with the majority yesterday in a 4-3 ruling that could establish homosexual marriage in the state is married to a former prominent columnist for the New York Times.

Margaret Marshall, a native of South Africa, is married to recently retired columnist Anthony Lewis.

One of Marshall’s chief nemeses, J. Edward Pawlick, attorney for Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage, sees the marriage as a politically beneficial alliance with the Sulzberger family, who consider Lewis a family friend as well as a one-time premiere columnist for their newspaper.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Boston University professor Rosanna Warren with Anthony Lewis and Margaret Marshall at American Academy of Arts & Sciences event in May 2000

The attorney notes a Times subsidiary, the Boston Globe, pressed for Marshall’s appointment to the state’s highest court without revealing its conflict of interest.

“Now we see more of the results of the New York Times-Boston Globe power,” Pawlick said, referring to yesterday’s ruling.

“How the people react will be seen,” he added. “But their outrage will be muted by the immense power of the five family-owners of The New York Times Company.”

Yesterday, Marshall’s Supreme Judicial Court decided homosexual couples are legally entitled to wed under the state constitution and should be allowed to apply for marriage licenses, overturning a ruling by a lower court handed down in May 2002 which said state law does not convey the right of marriage to homosexual couples.

“Barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution,” wrote Marshall in the opinion.

The ruling stopped short of declaring that homosexual couples should be granted the licenses, and does not call for them to be immediately issued to the plaintiffs in the case. Instead, the court ordered the state legislature to come up with a solution within 180 days. It granted a stay of its decision in the meantime.

“Marriage is a vital social institution,” Marshall’s opinion reads. “The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support. It brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial and social benefits. In return, it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations.”

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