This Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the first legal same-sex marriage in the United States, which took place right here in Massachusetts. Chief Justice Margaret Marshall wrote the majority opinion that allowed same-sex marriages to begin on May 17, 2004.

Reflecting on the anniversary during an appearance on Boston Public Radio on Thursday, Marshall pointed to a recent study by the Rand Corporation that examined the impact of legal same-sex marriage over the past two decades. The research found it had no negative effects on the state of marriage, divorce or cohabitation among different-sex couples.

However, Marshall expressed concern over the growing uncertainty among same-sex couples regarding the security of their marriages in the current political climate.

“My greatest concern now is the number of times that people — gay people and people who've been married, not married — have come up to me and say, 'Are we safe?'” she said.

While Marshall believes Massachusetts remains a safe haven for same-sex marriage, she acknowledged the national implications of judicial decisions.

“I believe in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, we are safe as we can be anywhere,” she said. “However, we are a national country. It goes across the country, and judges have influence.”

One such decision was the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, which in 2022 eliminated the constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years. Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the same rationale could be used to challenge rights to same-sex marriage.

“All of us are taught, lawyers and judges, that you decide the case in front of you,” Marshall said, criticizing Thomas. “I do find it a kind of lack of discipline to say nothing else … arrogance, perhaps, that you are opining on something that is not even before you.”

Despite setbacks, Marshall remains hopeful.

“I do believe the arc of justice turns in our nation,” she said. “I am well aware of the many, many steps that we have taken back and the many unfulfilled promises.”

Addressing young people, Marshall urged active civic engagement. “Do something, do something. And I don't mean go on social media and sign an online petition. Get out there, get to know your elected representatives. The people in the legislature are the heart and lungs of democracy,” she advised.

“Show up, go on marches, protest, speak out loud. You have no idea what changes will come.”