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Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret Marshall said Wednesday that while she understands her tenure on the state's high court will always be linked to the legalization of gay marriage, that case holds no greater importance in her mind than the hundreds of other rulings she authored.

"I'm proud of every decision," said Marshall, who surprised even her closest colleagues with the announcement that she planned to retire from the bench by the end of October to spend more time with her husband, former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

The court's 4-3 ruling in the 2003 case called Goodrich v. Department of Public Health paved the way for Massachusetts to become the first U.S. state to allow same-sex couples to wed, igniting a fierce national debate over gay marriage that continues to this day.

"Whether and whom to marry, how to express sexual intimacy, and whether and how to establish a family — these are among the most basic of every individual's liberty and due process rights," Marshall wrote.

The chief justice recalled how a courtroom packed with hundreds of people quickly cleared out after the court heard arguments in the gay marriage case, leaving only a handful of people who were there for other matters.


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