(CNSNews.com) - Conservatives are bracing for another court ruling that could change the longstanding definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Court watchers expect the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to rule on Friday or Monday in a case seeking the right of homosexual couples to marry in the state.

The case, Goodridge, et al. v. Department of Public Health, was filed by seven same-sex couples who applied for - and were denied - marriage licenses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The lawsuit argues that the state constitution protects one's right to marry the person of one's choice, and it says there is no justification for the state to exclude same-sex couples from the benefits and protections that marriage provides.

"These couples, like thousands of others in every community throughout the state, are bound by a profound love and commitment," said Mary Bonauto, the activist who argued the case.

Bonauto - the civil rights director for New England's Gay Lesbian Advocates Defenders (GLAD) - commented in a March 2003 press release, "Only 'marriage' conveys the love and commitment that others automatically understand and respect. Only 'marriage' provides a legal safety net protecting the couple's emotional bonds and their economic security.

"Equal marriage rights would strengthen these families and the communities of which they are an integral part," she said.

According to GLAD, the seven couples involved in the lawsuit have been in committed relationships ranging in duration form six to 32 years, and four of the couples are raising children.

Alarm bells over wedding bells

A decision in favor of the plaintiffs could threaten marriage throughout the country, with couples from other states marrying in Massachusetts, then returning to their home states to challenge marriage laws there, said the conservative group Focus on the Family.

Even before the highest court in Massachusetts issues a ruling, the Focus on the Family issued a press release this week, saying it "stands ready to respond."

"The foundation of marriage, as a union between male and female, has been recognized and accepted throughout all of human history," said Glenn Stanton, a senior analyst for Focus on the Family.

"But now the courts, in their arrogance, have the ability to erase all of that in favor of their own personal ideas of what marriage should look like, and we should all be concerned."

Dr. Bill Maier, vice president and psychologist-in-residence for Focus on the Family, said of the impending decision, "Over the past 30 years we've seen the devastating impact that divorce, out-of-wedlock births and fatherlessness has had on America's children. Kids clearly suffer when they are deprived of a family with both a mom and a dad.

"The proposition of same-sex 'marriage' and its logical consequences will harm millions of children by intentionally denying them either a mother or a father."

See Earlier Story:
Civil Rights, Legal Groups Voice Support of Same-Sex Marriage (25 Nov. 2002)