The Judge On the Front Lines of Culture War

Margaret Marshall likes to say she's lived through two revolutions - the overthrow of apartheid in her native South Africa and the advancement of women in the US. Now the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is on the forefront of a third: the redefinition of the family.

The opinion that Justice Marshall authored Tuesday, ruling that the state constitution entitles same-sex couples the right to wed, has quickly become a pen stroke heard around the world.

It is likely to embolden gay-rights groups to push for the recognition of same-sex marriage in courts across the nation. It is spurring a backlash among social conservatives, who are preparing their own legal briefs and legislation to ensure that marriage remains something just between a man and a woman.

It is injecting a new dynamic into the presidential race, and renewing debate over whether the American judiciary is too politicized. In short, this relatively unknown Massachusetts jurist who likes gardening and, by her own admission, is happiest when snorkeling in the ocean, has thrust herself into the middle of the nation's culture war. This decision "will encourage developments in other states," says Alan Wolfe, a political scientist at Boston College. "It will be similar, if less intense, to Roe v. Wade, which nationalized the abortion issue."

The Christian Science Monitor reports here.