To say that Roderick Ireland’s career has been storied is like saying a library is storied—it’s true, but it doesn’t do justice to the breadth and depth contained within.
The first Black justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and later its first Black chief justice, Ireland has presided over a number of landmark cases in his 37-year career as a judge in the state. Perhaps most notably, Ireland was a member of the four-justice majority in a case called Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. The 2003 case established Massachusetts as the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage, and set in motion a domino-effect of other states that passed similar laws in the years that followed.
Goodridge, as it’s known among scholars and armchair historians of LGBTQ rights, was a monumental decision, one that ultimately paved the way for nationwide marriage equality in the United States. But ask Ireland which cases stand out among the many he’s heard, and he’ll recall cases from early in his career as a juvenile court judge alongside Goodridge.