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Five times the Globe’s editorial board was out in front on social issues

While the Globe reports the news, the editorial pages argue for ways to think about it. Here are just a few of the times opinion writers took stands on important issues.

People celebrate outside the Massachusetts State House on June 14, 2007, after the Legislature voted against a proposed 2008 ballot question to ban gay marriage.David L. Ryan/Globe staff / File

1. Vietnam War

With its “Out Now” editorial of October 15, 1969, the Globe became the second mainstream newspaper (after the St. Louis Dispatch) to call for the United States to withdraw from Vietnam. “Someone gave me a copy — I was in college and traveling on a bus to an antiwar protest in D.C.,” says Ellen Clegg, who would later become editorial page editor. “It made me want to work for the Globe.” Charles Whipple’s 1967 six-part series of antiwar editorials was reprinted as a booklet, and thousands of copies were distributed by US senators in answer to constituent letters about the war.

2. Watergate

The Saturday Night Massacre drove Whipple to the typewriter with characteristic urgency again. On October 20, 1973, two Nixon administration officials — Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Assistant Attorney General William Ruckelshaus — resigned rather than obey the president’s order to fire the special prosecutor in the Watergate case. Whipple’s editorial, two days later, was the first in a major American paper to urge Nixon to resign.

3. Birth control and abortion rights

In the late 1960s, Massachusetts still had an oppressive law on birth control on its books, “the last of its kind in the nation,” as an editorial pushing for change observed. Unmarried people couldn’t buy contraceptives, and “fornication” was a misdemeanor punishable by a $30 fine or three months in jail. The law was finally ruled unconstitutional in 1970. “The Massachusetts birth control law was basically handed down from Puritan days,” read the editorial. “It may now join the stocks and the ducking-stool and the scarlet letter — in limbo.” Later, citing the health risks and costs of illegal abortions, the editorial board advocated reform of the abortion law. One letter of protest was received in response.

4. Same-sex marriage

“In Massachusetts as elsewhere,” the editorial board wrote on July 8, 2003, same-sex families “have made moral, emotional, and financial obligations to each other and seek only the recognition and protections a legal marriage affords.” It was time for that legal system “to extend these rights — and responsibilities — to all Americans.” It was the first editorial in a major newspaper to make the case, and preceded by four months the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision to uphold the recognition of same-sex marriage.

5. Gun violence

The Globe's front page on June 16, 2016, when it launched an editorial campaign against gun violence.Globe archive

After the June 2016 mass shooting that killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, the Globe published “Make It Stop,” a four-page editorial spread laying out the spike in gun violence since the expiration of the assault weapons ban in 2004, and calling for a ban on assault rifles. Other installments of “Make It Stop” ran in 2017 after mass shootings in Texas and Nevada, and in 2018 after the massacre at a Florida high school. In 2019, the day after the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, where people of color were targeted, the editorial board wrote, “America is sick. It’s getting sicker.”