‘We do’

Same-sex marriage comes to Massachusetts as deeper and broader trends make the rest of the country more tolerant, too.

When Hillary Goodridge was a student at Dartmouth College in the 1970s and first “coming out” as a lesbian, the last thing she thought about was same-sex marriage. She saw herself as a lesbian separatist and an enemy of anything that smacked of traditional institutions. Back then, the issues that engaged her were the anti-nuclear and anti-apartheid movements. At one political rally, a 20-year-old Goodridge got up and shouted fiercely, “Marriage is a patriarchal institution!”

But as the years passed, Goodridge’s life underwent significant changes. She became involved in a long-term relationship with Julie, her partner for the past seventeen years. She left New Hampshire and eventually moved to Boston, where she currently serves as program director of the Unitarian Universalist Funding Panel. Eight years ago, Julie gave birth to their daughter Annie. (Hillary, Julie, and Annie share the same surname, which they adopted just before Annie was born.)

Annie’s birth provided them with their first real encounter with the consequences of not being legally married. After problems developed following a planned Caesarian birth, Annie was rushed to the neonatal intensive-care ward. But when Hillary tried to see her, she was told she wasn’t allowed. Hospital staff also barred her from visiting Julie in the post-op room. That wouldn’t have been the case if they had been legal spouses. “It was really jarring,” she recalls.

Three years ago, Hillary and then-five-year-old Annie were discussing love and were naming various couples they knew who were married. Annie asked why she and Julie weren’t married. “You don’t love each other,” Annie said. “If you loved each other, you’d be married!”

Since then, both her mothers have been working hard to remedy the situation. In March 2001, they marched into Boston City Hall to apply for a marriage license.

“We’re two brides,” replied the Goodridges, glowingly, although they knew the outcome from the start.

But the two women were determined to keep faith with Annie. The following month, they took the issue to court, joining six other couples as plaintiffs in the landmark case Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health challenging Massachusetts laws restricting same-sex couples from marrying. Remarkably, of the fourteen plaintiffs, seven are Unitarian Universalists. On November 18, 2003 , the state’s highest court ruled by a 4-3 majority that “barring a person from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts constitution.” The court gave the legislature 180 days—until May 17—to comply. Then in February, the court reaffirmed its decision, making it clear that only marriage—not civil unions—would satisfy its earlier ruling.

The decision made Massachusetts the first state in the union to grant gays and lesbians full-fledged marriage rights, joining the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. In the months that followed, same-sex marriage seemed to be sweeping like a brushfire across the country. Gay and lesbian couples were camping out overnight and lining up in the rain in front of San Francisco City Hall for marriage licenses. A tiny county north of Albuquerque, New Mexico, handed out twenty-six same-sex marriage licenses before the state invalidated them. The mayor of New Paltz, New York, began officiating same-sex weddings without issuing licenses and faces nineteen misdemeanor charges as a result.

At the same time, the sudden possibility of same-sex marriage created a formidable backlash. Massachusetts legislators narrowly gave preliminary approval to a state constitutional amendment that would allow civil union status for same-sex couples but deny them the right to marry; if the legislature approves the same measure a year from now it would go to Massachusetts voters in 2006. Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts attempted to block the issuance of licenses on May 17. Ohio’s governor signed a bill banning same-sex unions in his state, making Ohio the thirty-eighth state that explicitly bans same-sex marriage. In March, President George W. Bush announced he favored amending the United States Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Some Republican political strategists sensed a “wedge” issue with which to attack Democrats in the November election. And the religious right saw a crusade against same-sex marriage as a way to revive its political fortunes.

Yet a renewed culture war pitting conservative Christians against the aspirations of same-sex couples appears unlikely to reverse a very real march of progress. Even though same-sex marriage isn’t on the legal horizon in most states anytime soon, American culture has come a very long way since the Stonewall riots that launched the gay movement thirty-five years ago.

The current cultural moment has not emerged from a vacuum. The attention of most heterosexual Americans—with perhaps the exception of the religious right—was focused on other matters. But notable shifts within the lives of people like Hillary Goodridge, within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and within the larger society have prepared the way for the national focus on same-sex marriage. Those shifts have been mirrored in Unitarian Universalism as well. Within the LGBT population, the transformation can be seen as the personal and political maturing of an entire community. At the same time, the larger society has shown increased toleration, if not acceptance, of gays and lesbians. As the two trends have come together, much of the country has witnessed the growing visibility and mainstreaming of the gay and lesbian community, an assimilation into the very core of American life that parallels the path of various ethnic minorities.

The growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in mainstream culture seemed particularly evident last summer and fall. During a period of a few months, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state sodomy laws, the Canadian province of Ontario granted marriage rights to same-sex couples, the Episcopal Church elected the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop, and millions of Americans were glued to TV shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. In the wake of all this came the Massachusetts court decision. For advocates for gay rights, 2003 indeed seemed like a breakthrough year.

“Four years in the gay movement is like twenty-eight years in the rest of society,” says E.J. Graff, author of the Beacon Press book, What Is Marriage For? “We’re living in dog time.”

In the early years of the gay rights movement, sexual liberation was the dominant concern for many gay men; at the same time, large numbers of lesbians, strongly influenced by the women’s movement, focused on building their own community around feminist and anti-patriarchal values. For most gay men, marriage wasn’t on their radar screen; for most lesbians, like Hillary Goodridge, marriage seemed inimical to the egalitarian new world they were trying to create.

But as the generation that came of age in the tumultuous and heady years of the 1960s got older, it found itself with radically changing needs. By the mid-to-late 1980s, AIDS was ravaging the gay male community, undercutting the sexual liberation ethos that had sustained many gay men; as a result, many men began focusing on long-term relationships. Among lesbians in the late 1980s, as the separatist ideology lost much of its power and women felt they had more personal and economic choices—and, in many cases, were approaching the end of their child-bearing years—a “baby boom” emerged. More and more, gays and lesbians were living lives very much like their heterosexual neighbors. Truth be told, many had always been doing so.

“The main factors that have led us where we are today are AIDS and the maturation of the core population of LGBT people who are politically attuned and motivated,” says Sue Hyde, New England field organizer for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Our needs for equality have changed as we become older and more settled and become parents.” Hyde notes that, of the 594,000 cohabiting same-sex couples who identified as such on the 2000 United States census, 34 percent of lesbian and 22 percent of gay male couples had children under 18 at home.

Hyde says that activists now in their forties and fifties remain at the forefront of the gay rights movement today. So, not surprisingly, their issues—focused on relationships, family issues, and children—have taken center stage. Hillary Goodridge, now 47, says, “Having kids gives you a fierce, very primal feeling around protection of your family that I didn’t realize before. I feel protective about my partner Julie, but it is my daughter Annie who brings out a ferocity.”

“The formation of families is so different today than in the ’60s and ’70s,” says Rob Compton, who, along with his partner, was one of the plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case. “At that time, if you wanted to have kids, the only option was a traditional family. Many gay people ignored their gay side for that reason. But in the past few years, so many of our gay friends have adopted children. It is really amazing.” Compton himself was married to a woman for many years in order to have the kind of family he wanted. Compton, 54, and his partner, David Wilson, 59, have been together for seven years. Between them, they have five children from previous heterosexual marriages, and six grandchildren.

As the gay and lesbian communities came to look more and more like mainstream America, society also began seeing homosexuality in a new light. Although many early responses to the AIDS epidemic portrayed gay men as sources of contagion, the epidemic also prompted a much wider and more compassionate depiction of homosexuality in the media. More gay men and lesbians came out of the closet, organizing community-based aids service organizations and agitating for greater government action. The AIDS Quilt was first displayed at the second gay and lesbian march on Washington, D.C., in 1987 and generated tremendous sympathy and support. “The quilt was a significant turning point,” Hyde says. It changed the “you got what you deserved” approach to aids to a more sympathetic view of gay people, emphasizing the grief of an entire community.

At the same time, gay and lesbian family issues were gaining attention politically. Various cities passed domestic partnership ordinances that offered health and insurance benefits to partners of gay and lesbian municipal employees. In 1992, Vermont became the first state in the union to approve domestic partnership benefits for same-sex partners of state workers. A variety of companies, notably in the health-care and high-tech industries, began to include same-sex partners in their benefits packages. The decisions of Vermont and Massachusetts courts to legalize second-parent and step-parent adoption by a same-sex partner helped lay the legal groundwork for the later civil union and same-sex marriage decisions in those states.

Despite these shifts, it took time for the idea of same-sex marriage to take hold, especially in urban gay communities. When I traveled around the country researching my book In Search of Gay America, published in 1989 , I was surprised at the number of gay and lesbian couples I met who had been “married” or “joined in holy union”—sometimes in Unitarian Universalist congregations but primarily in churches that ministered specifically to the gay community, like the Metropolitan Community Church. Same-sex marriage, I wrote, was “a phenomenon rarely found in larger cities, perhaps because the pressure to fit in is not as strong there.”

It was the election of Bill Clinton as president in 1992 that marked the first major social shift on gay issues, ushering in a period E.J. Graff calls the “big thaw.” Promising “I have a vision and you’re part of it,” the Arkansas governor actively sought the gay vote in his campaign for president. Once elected, Clinton announced he would issue an executive order ending the U.S. military’s ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military. After an intense national debate the Clinton administration retreated, instituting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Despite the outcome, the discussion focused attention on gay issues as never before. Gay subjects emerged dramatically in literature, theater, and movies, culminating in Tom Hanks‘ Oscar for his role as a gay lawyer with AIDS in the film Philadelphia. Unprecedented visibility humanized a previously ignored and despised group of people. On April 25, 1993, hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians came to the District of Columbia for the Third Lesbian and Gay March on Washington.

Not surprisingly, gays in the military was the major issue of that April 1993 march. But the march marked the first time that same-sex marriage gained some notice, as well. On the day before the march, the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, married 2,000 gay couples in a ceremony on the steps of the Internal Revenue Service building. Although the event was largely obscured by the march itself, for those who participated it was a transforming occasion.

“I remember going down to escalators to catch the Metro to the IRS,” recalls Aleta Fenceroy of Omaha, who married her partner Jean Mayberry at that ceremony, “and the whole subway tunnel burst out with people singing ‘Going to the Chapel.‘ It was one of those moments that still gives me goose bumps when I think of it.” Later that day, she and Mayberry walked around Dupont Circle with wreaths of flowers in their hair, receiving the congratulations of strangers.

That year, same-sex marriage became a public issue for the first time—and provoked a major public backlash. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to three same-sex couples represented discrimination on the basis of sex. The state legislature moved quickly to define marriage as only between a man and a woman; five years later, in a hard-fought referendum, almost 70 percent of Hawaii voters passed a constitutional amendment ratifying the legislature’s decision. In the years following the Hawaii ruling, thirty-eight states and the federal government passed legislation defining marriage exclusively as a heterosexual province.

For gay activists, Hawaii was a crushing defeat, but for a brief, shining moment, same-sex marriage suddenly seemed possible to millions of gay Americans. Gradually, a subject that had been near the bottom of the gay agenda began to move towards the top. And, E.J. Graff says, in the period following “the big thaw” the “silent majority” of gay people in much of the country were finally able to be more public about their sexual orientation without fear of losing jobs and family.

“They are the ones who were raising kids, who were taking care of their elderly mom upstairs,” Graff says. “They are no longer making the ‘devil’s bargain’—‘I live like I’m gay but I don’t say it.‘ They suddenly had a voice. They want to get married, and they want to get married for the same reason their brothers and sisters do.” Although division still exists within the gay and lesbian communities over the push for marriage—with some still expressing reservations about having the state define their relationships—same-sex marriage became a grass-roots issue, one that directly touched the lives of gay people, as few issues had before.

And then in 1999 came an event more momentous in terms of the legal recognition of gay couples than anything that had occurred before. In December of that year, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the exclusion of same-sex couples from the benefits granted to married people violated the state constitution. A year later, after a highly contentious political debate, Vermont adopted the nation’s first civil unions law, granting same-sex couples the same state rights as married couples in terms of probate, medical benefits, child custody, and inheritance. Civil unions might have been “separate but equal” but they were a giant step forward.

The outcome spurred Hillary and Julie Goodridge, Rob Compton and David Wilson, and five other couples into action in Massachusetts, along with the Boston-based legal organization, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which had played a key role in the Vermont decision. If they could say “I do” in Vermont, why not in Massachusetts? And, this time, they were determined, full-fledged same-sex marriage would be the result.

Back in 1973, when the Rev. Leslie Westbrook was a 27-year-old assistant minister at the Arlington Street Church in Boston, two young women came to her and asked her to perform “a ceremony of love.” They sat in front of her, holding hands, under a large portrait of William Ellery Channing, the great Unitarian minister who had served the congregation more than a century before. They loved each other, the two women told Westbrook; they wanted to tell the world of their love. The young minister liked them both and was impressed by the way they related to one another. For Westbrook it was something entirely new: She was in her first month in the ministry and had never performed a single wedding or taken a course on the subject in theological school. And yet, she recalled in a sermon that she delivered last year at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Maryland, “It didn’t seem unusual to me, it seemed normal as apple pie, that I and the two women sitting with me under Channing’s portrait were discussing their relationship and their wedding plans.”

Unitarian Universalists were out ahead of most other religious denominations in performing same-sex unions. According to the Arlington Street Church marriage book, three celebrations of love were performed there in 1973 and 1974, all of them for female couples. Although it is unclear which minister first blessed a same-sex union, a number of ministers are known to have officiated at ceremonies in the early 1970s, if not earlier.

Nonetheless, over the years, the UUA has reflected many of the same ambivalences—and often prejudices—about homosexuality as the rest of society. In 1967, the UUA Committee on Goals published the results of a survey that showed that 8 percent of UUs believed that homosexuality should be discouraged by law; 80 percent believed it should be discouraged by education; 12 percent believed it should be discouraged by either law or education. The key word was “discouraged.” Only 1/10 of 1 percent believed it should be encouraged.

For gay clergy, it was a particularly difficult time. The Rev. Eugene Navias remembers the years in the 1960s and ’70 s when the only way to survive in the UUA was to be in the closet. “Come out in the UUA? Are you kidding?” he says. “The Department of Ministry was dead set against it. They shipped you out of the ministry as soon as they found out you were gay.” Navias, now 75, says, “Part of the price of the closet was that I could never have a committed partner. Although I saw gay men in other lines of work partnering and living together, I never saw that among the clergy.”

In 1980, the UUA General Assembly passed a resolution calling for nondiscrimination in ministerial employment regarding gays and lesbians. While some churches like Arlington Street felt comfortable performing same-sex unions, that certainly wasn’t true everywhere. In the late ’70s and ‚ 80s, as the numbers of same-sex unions performed by UU ministers increased, some ministers faced opposition from their congregations, according to the Rev. Keith Kron, director of the UUA’s Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns. Some ministers were asked at job interviews whether they’d perform such unions. In 1984, the General Assembly faced the issue directly, passing a resolution supporting services of union. Much of the controversy surrounding them died down within a few years.

In 1997, the General Assembly endorsed the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, with 97 percent of the delegates voting in favor. These days, Kron notes, some ministers have gone so far as to refuse heterosexual marriage licenses until same-sex marriage becomes legal; approximately thirty UU ministers have done so. Yet clearly there is still some ambivalence. While many Unitarian Universalists in Massachusetts may see the issue of same-sex marriage as “their civil rights battle,” Kron says, in some more conservative parts of the country, UU congregations and ministers can be as reluctant as their neighbors to embrace the issue.

For Rob Compton and David Wilson, the support of their Unitarian Universalist congregation—Boston’s Arlington Street Church—has made a huge difference in their lives. Back in October 2000, the couple had a commitment ceremony at Arlington Street, presided over by the openly lesbian senior minister, the Rev. Kim K. Crawford Harvie. Three years later, on the day that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its ruling on same-sex marriage, the doors to the church were open for prayer and meditation; that night, the Freedom to Marry Coalition held a celebration there. “That is just another example of a UU church being welcoming,” says Wilson.

On May 17, the first day that same-sex marriage will be legal in Massachusetts, Compton and Wilson will go to Boston City Hall to apply for a marriage license. (After the required three-day waiting period, Crawford Harvie will sign it.) Then, if all goes as planned, on October 8, the anniversary of their commitment ceremony, the couple will return to the church to renew their vows. There will be a candlelight ceremony and a reception. But one major thing will be different on their fourth anniversary: This time, their minister will bless their Massachusetts wedding license.

If you look at American society today, you see a landscape unimaginable twenty-five or even ten years ago—a country where network and cable TV shows feature witty and appealing gay and lesbian characters (Ellen DeGeneres, the openly lesbian comic whose sitcom character came out to much controversy in 1998, has reinvented herself as one of the most popular daytime TV talk show hosts), where thousands of same-sex couples walk around with marriage licenses authorized by the city of San Francisco and by Multnomah County, Oregon, and where thousands of others in Massachusetts plan their weddings.

But the social and political landscape is complicated as well, with wide differences in attitudes towards homosexuality among regions, generations, religious groups, and urban and rural areas. Reality TV shows or sitcoms like Will and Grace that depict gays and lesbians in a positive light may open people’s eyes a bit, but not everyone has been watching—or marching in lockstep. As political organizer Hyde points out, “To imagine [that] Queer Eye for the Straight Guy or a show about finding a boyfriend will generate fundamental political change is magical thinking.”

And, in every poll, Americans remain solidly opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage, in some cases by two-to-one majorities. The numbers of support have moved only slightly in the past ten years, often falling during periods of backlash. Even a New York Times/CBS poll last July, which showed that 54 percent of Americans favored legalizing “homosexual relations,” revealed strong opposition to same-sex marriage.

Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and Public Life at Boston College, argues that while society is increasingly tolerant towards gays and lesbians, tolerance only goes so far. “Americans support the right to privacy,” he says. “They will look the other way. But if it is a public phenomenon, which marriage is, people see it as ‘in your face.‘ They don’t like the idea, in spite of the overwhelming acceptance of homosexuality.” He adds that “the sea change in our culture—at least on TV—hasn’t extended to same-sex marriage. Marriage is still viewed as a sacred event that has to do with raising children.”

Since the Massachusetts court decision, civil unions—once a radical position that nearly caused the state of Vermont to explode into civil strife—emerged as a “moderate” compromise for many voters and politicians in that state. All the Democratic candidates in the 2004 presidential race supported civil unions, and former senator Carol Mosely Braun, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and the Rev. Al Sharpton endorsed full same-sex marriage rights.

Chris Bull, who has been covering politics for the past ten years as Washington correspondent for the gay biweekly newsmagazine, The Advocate, is equally doubtful that the Massachusetts court decision represents where the rest of the country is going—at least right now. In Massachusetts, Bull says, many years of activism and social change laid the groundwork on gay and lesbian issues. The state enacted a gay antidiscrimination law in 1989 (the third in the country after Wisconsin and New Hampshire) and under the liberal Republican Governor William Weld enacted legislation protecting the rights of gay high school students, a national first. A later court decision allowed second-parent adoption by same-sex partners.

“Massachusetts is more like Canada than it is like the rest of the country,” Bull says. “The state has a liberal population, the once-powerful Catholic church is under siege, there is no religious right to speak of. Those conditions have hardly been created in few other states. They haven’t filtered down to the rest of the electorate.”

He suspects what we’ll see in the rest of the country is a “patchwork approach,” with a few liberal-minded states perhaps legalizing same-sex marriage, and some states banning it outright. Bull argues that various states have to go through battles over gay nondiscrimination bills first, and undergo a ten-year cycle of “desensitization” on a variety of gay issues before they can cope with such a difficult issue as same-sex marriage. “Those states who have gone through the cycle already are ready for it,” he believes.

In some places the national controversy over same-sex marriage can make it harder to take those initial steps, as recent events bear out in Sioux City, Iowa, a town of 70,000 in the northwest part of the state. Six years ago the city council narrowly defeated an effort to add “sexual orientation” to the city’s civil rights ordinance. This year, the Human Rights Commission proposed that the council take up the issue again. Some local gays and lesbians worried that the controversy over same-sex marriage would make it harder to change the city ordinance. “Everything that is happening in San Francisco could hurt our effort here,” cautioned Connie Jones, a Sioux City lesbian. “This marriage thing is coming so quickly. I’m afraid that people will be more reactive.” She was right. In late February, the city council rejected gay employment and housing protections by a 4-1 vote, with same-sex marriage a heated subject of discussion.

In Omaha, the nearest major urban area, the view is a little different, at least within the gay and lesbian community. Aleta Fenceroy, who was married at the March on Washington in 1993, sees a “pent-up euphoria” among gays and lesbians there, even though the state’s constitution bars the recognition of same-sex marriages. “The reality of what nonrecognition means will happen at a later date,” says Fenceroy. “Right now people are caught up in the euphoria.”

Fenceroy seems to have caught the wave herself: She admits that she and her partner “considered hopping on a plane” to go to San Francisco to get a marriage license. But they thought better of it, especially since they already consider themselves married. “It would be fun to do a legal ceremony,” she says. “But unless it is recognized in Nebraska, it isn’t essential.”

Despite the current backlash, journalist Bull believes that in the long run acceptance of same-sex marriage nationwide is simply inevitable. There may be a lag time, but it will happen eventually, as indicated by polls that show younger voters generally in favor of extending marriage rights. “People dip their foot into the water [of equality] and pull it out,” Bull says. “Then they go back into the water. Maybe they are in the process of pulling it out now. But they’ll go back again.” More importantly, he argues, any group that is fighting for its own rights will win in the end. “They will be more vigilant than those against.”

In the end, beyond politics, beyond social changes and social movements, a greater force may help to transform the landscape. “The real push towards marriage isn’t financial or legal,” says author Graff. “That is the easiest way to argue it, of course. But the ordinary Jane and Joe Homo, the ’silent majority,‘ they want to do this because they fall in love and marriage is an expression of love. The real oomph of the movement comes from this—people fall in love and want to get married!” And love may just be unstoppable.

Massachusetts Arrives at Moment for Same-Sex Marriage

Against a backdrop of whoops and cheers and a party that spilled onto the streets, gay and lesbian couples here began filling out applications for marriage licenses at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, when Massachussetts became the first state in the country to allow them to marry.

The couples were led down a series of wooden staircases at Cambridge City Hall that were decorated with white bridal organza.

“I feel overwhelmed,“ said Marcia Hams, 57, of Cambridge, who along with her partner, Susan Shepherd, was the first to complete the application. “I feel ready to collapse.“

Ms. Shepherd, 52, choked up and said, “There’s some kid somewhere that’s watching this and it’s going to change his whole life.“

She added, “This is like winning the World Series and the Stanley Cup on the same day. It’s amazing.“

By nightfall on Sunday, hundreds of people — couples waiting to apply for licenses and supporters of their right to do so — had surged toward the Romanesque stone building and formed a boisterous and ebullient crowd that spilled onto the street. They wore glittery party hats and boutonnieres, blew bubbles and waved signs that said “Love Is in the Air“ and “I Do Unto Others.“

By 1:30 a.m., 263 couples had arrived to apply for marriage licenses. Meanwhile, the party outside had grown so large that police in riot gear cordoned off three blocks of Massachusetts Avenue to traffic.

“It’s history,“ said Alex Fennell, 27, who showed up early Sunday with her partner, Sasha Hartman, 29, and got the fifth spot in line to apply for a marriage license. “Our kids can look back and say our moms were number five.“

Ms. Hartman said that when she woke up Sunday, she still did not quite believe that they would be able to marry.

“It’s real,“ she said, “but it’s almost too good to be true.“

The other 350 cities and towns in the state planned to begin taking applications for same-sex marriage licenses after the sun came up on Monday. But Cambridge — a city of just over 100,000 people, home of Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a well-known taste for erudite rebelliousness — decided to start things rolling at 12:01 a.m.

By early evening, the freshly manicured City Hall lawn was a colorful collection of couples, camera crews and children playing circle games.

Officials at City Hall threw open their doors on Sunday night for a rousing party, with wedding cake, sparkling cider and the music of the Cambridge Community Chorus.

Weddings are planned for as early as Monday, with many couples intending to seek permission from judges to waive the three-day waiting period that is normally required between applying for a license and receiving one.

“It’s a little overwhelming to be the poster child for gay marriage,“ said Ms. Shepherd, who was first in line on Saturday night with Ms. Hams. The couple, together since they met while working as machinists 27 years ago, said they had been asked, because of the length of their relationship, to be the first couple by a local gay rights organization. “We have an extraordinarily solid relationship and in some ways it’s time to take it to another level,“ Ms. Shepherd said.

They said they would get married in church next Sunday and have a big celebration in September.

Johanna Schulman and Moira Barrett brought glow sticks, a helium balloon kit to festoon the city hall plaza with balloons, and gloves, hats and extra socks to cope with a mercurial New England spring evening. Their 6-year-old daughter, Annie.

Before taking the subway to City Hall, the couple fed the dog in their Cambridge kitchen. On the windowsill above the sink, there was a figurine of two brides. On their calendar was scrawled, “Get Married.“

“This is so odd to get married after being together for 19 years,“ said Ms. Schulman, a 46-year-old financial adviser. “I feel as emotionally invested as any bride. I have the bridal jitters.“

The stage for Monday’s cultural watershed was set in November, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled, in a lawsuit brought by seven same-sex couples, that gays and lesbians had a constitutional right to marry. The court set May 17 as the day the marriages could begin, and told the state Legislature to take whatever action it saw fit to comply with the court’s ruling.

But the Legislature, with a large number of Democrats who are against gay marriage, some because of their Catholic faith, was not pleased with the court’s 4-to-3 decision. First, the legislators voted to ask the court if allowing civil unions would comply with the ruling. In a bitingly dismissive response in February, the court said no.

Then, in a series of marathon constitutional conventions, marked by emotional oratory, filibustering and back-room bargaining, the legislature voted in late March to approve a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and establish civil unions.

That amendment cannot take effect unless it is approved by another session of the Legislature and then by voters in 2006, so it could not hold up the start of same-sex marriages.

One certain target of lawsuits is a 1913 law that Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, has interpreted to mean that out-of-state couples cannot marry in Massachusetts unless they intend to move to the state. At least four communities — Provincetown, Somerville, Worcester and Springfield — have said they will defy the ruling, prompting the governor to threaten to fine or prosecute those town clerks and to invalidate the marriages of those couples.

But out-of-state couples are coming to Massachusetts anyway, and on Friday, New York’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, appeared to leave the door open for same-sex couples from New York to legally marry in Massachusetts. The attorneys general of Connecticut and Rhode Island are expected to issue opinions on the subject on Monday.

Keith Hershberger, 54, and Kevin Green, 50, drove up from Brooklyn to become the 32nd couple to apply for a license. On their form, they initially wrote that they were from New York City and intended to stay there, but a clerk told them that they would not issue them a license unless they intended to move to Massachusetts. So they crossed out New York City and wrote in Shelburne Falls, Mass.

“We do love Shelburne Falls,“ said Mr. Hershberger, who wore a long braid, a brown cowboy hat and a turquoise earring. “And we would like to retire there.“

In Massachusetts, there is giddiness and wariness, exhilaration and discomfort. Twelve of the state’s 1,200 justices of the peace have resigned rather than perform same-sex marriages, said Claire M. Mentus, president of the Massachusetts Justices of the Peace Association.

But at least one justice of the peace applied for that job in order to be able to solemnize gay marriages. J. Mary Sorrell, 43, of Amherst, became a justice of the peace in February and planned to be at the city clerk’s office in Northampton, a gay-friendly college town, at 5 a.m. Monday, so that the expected crush of same-sex couples know she is available to marry them.

“I am a lesbian and I wanted to make sure that there was a visible member of our community who was not merely willing to solemnize same sex marriages, but who was excited as a member of the tribe,“ Ms. Sorrell said.

Across the street from Cambridge City Hall on Sunday night were a dozen or so opponents of gay marriage led by a Kansas minister, the Rev. Fred Phelps, and holding signs, some with slurs against homosexuals.

“Two men and two women marrying each other is a passport to hell“ said Katherine Hockenbarger from Topeka, Kan., who was standing on an American flag.

As the celebration in Cambridge grew, a smattering of couples were lining up at other town halls. Vincenza Martorano and Julianne Gale, 22-year-old college students, were sleeping on the steps of city hall in Somerville, with 10 of their friends.

“It’s a great honor to be the first ones in line,“ Ms. Martorano said.

The couples who came to Cambridge Sunday night were enthusiastic, but also sober, anticipating cultural and economic roadblocks ahead, and acutely aware of their role as representatives of a new era for gays and lesbians.

“I’m mostly excited, but I’m also bewildered because there’s a lot of confusion now,“ said Robyn Ochs, 45, who works in technology at Harvard, and will marry her partner, Peg Preble, 46, an electrician. “What does this mean, having a relationship that isn’t recognized at the federal level but is at the state level? What benefits won’t we get? How does this play out? How do we do our taxes next year? In the long run, do we incur more responsibilities than we get benefits because of the lack of federal protection?“

Other couples were feeling economic pressures to marry. Lisa McDonnell and Julia Dunbar decided to marry because they heard Ms. Dunbar’s employer was thinking of discontinuing health benefits for domestic partners, so that gay partners, like heterosexuals, could receive health benefits only if married.

“We weren’t planning to rush into it,“ said Ms. McDonnell, a self-employed social worker. “The hard part is the freedom to marry has become the pressure to marry has become the coercion to marry.“

But others were underplaying the significance of it all, treating marriage as a nice, but quotidian step.

“We may take the afternoon off, and after it’s all over go to Taco Bell or something or mow the lawn,“ said Greg Llacer of Boxborough, Mass., about the Thursday wedding he had planned with his partner, Doug Miller. “We’re just kind of geeks. We’re pretty understated, but I think we’ll get dressed up. A jacket and tie at least.“

Massachusetts Arrives at Moment for Same-Sex Marriage

Measuring the Length of Same Sex Marriage

Formally, under Massachusetts law, the same rules and procedures that govern traditional marriage also apply to same-sex marriage. There are no special procedures that govern gay and lesbian marriages.

Same-sex divorce in Massachusetts presents many of the same issues as divorce involving heterosexual partners, including the division of assets, spousal support, and child custody. Still, some issues are unique to gay marriage, and thereafter, gay divorce in Massachusetts. For example, many gay and lesbian couples considered themselves married long before the law permitted.

Massachusetts led the charge in legalizing gay marriage with its 2003 decision of . 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003). The Supreme Judicial Court expanded the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions. It found that limiting the validity of marriage to heterosexual unions violates the Massachusetts Constitution. Throughout the next decade, dozens of states followed suit, leading up to the landmark decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 US (2015), in which the United States Supreme Court found that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

“[T]he right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.” Each of the United States must now recognize lawful same-sex marriage performed in other states. This decision by the highest court in our country legalized same-sex marriage across the nation. In doing so, the Court also legalized same-sex divorce.

Still, much is left to explore on the subject of gay and lesbian marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and lawyers continue to grapple with how the laws apply to same-sex divorce and separation.

The laws pertaining to the division of marital assets and alimony during a Massachusetts divorce continue to prove more convoluted for homosexual couples, even if not on the surface. There may be complications relating to property division, which is largely based on the distinction between marital property and separate property. If two people have been living together as a married couple in every way for many years, but have only been legally married for three, what constitutes marital property is questionable. Further, with the repeal of the Federal law known as Defense of Marriage Act assets such as federal retirement benefits and pensions are now recognized as part of same-sex marital assets that are subject to equitable division, which leads to other predicaments.

One of the greatest obstacles in a Massachusetts same sex divorce surfaces when a court determines how long a couple has been married. When the time a couple lived together as a family far outweighs the time during which they were legally married, the court must contemplate what is considered fair in the divorce.

The length of a marriage is a crucial component of divorce in Massachusetts. Alimony, property division, and differentiating between marital property and separate property are complicated matters for any couple. Division of property follows equitable distribution laws, requiring a judge to divide assets equitably — or fairly — under the law, but not necessarily equally. Alimony, or spousal support, is based on a durational formula, which is outlined in Massachusetts alimony law. A judge considers the length of a marriage to determine how property is to be divided and alimony awarded in the event of a divorce. Specific limits are set in regard to the length of a marriage and for how long alimony is to be paid.

For example, if you were married for five years, you may receive alimony for up to 2 ½ years. If you were married for longer than twenty years, the court may award alimony through full social security retirement age. A short-term marriage typically results in shorter time that alimony may have to be paid. Longer marriages less than 20 years may demand payment for up to 80 percent of the length of the marriage. Alimony laws aim to affect all married couples, no matter the sexual orientation. However, due to historical bans on same-sex marriage, a gay or lesbian couple may have been living together and holding themselves out as a married couple for many years prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage. This complicates any court’s determination of a marriage’s duration for purposes of property division and alimony awards compared to traditional couples.

It can be greatly unfair to tally the years a same-sex couple has been married if the right for them to marry only recently emerged as an option despite many prior years of partnership and commitment. Additionally, if both parties cannot agree on the length of the marriage, this can create additional, significant problems.

Legal experts have argued that courts should “tack on” years for long-term relationships that preceded marriage to account for the period during which a homosexual couple was not legally allowed to marry.

The law governing alimony defines “length of marriage” as the period of time from the legal marriage date to the service of complaint of divorce, but permits a judge to increase the payment period when there is evidence that the parties’ economic partnership began during cohabitation before the marriage.

In 1996, the Massachusetts Appeals Court heard a relevant case concerning a heterosexual couple. The court affirmed a divorce judgment that considered the contributions of the parties during a period of pre-marital cohabitation. In the circumstances of a divorce proceeding, the judge fashioned an equitable division of marital assets under Massachusetts law “in considering the parties’ premarital contributions to assets brought into the marriage during a ten-year cohabitation period before the marriage.” Moriarty v. Stone 41 Mass. App. Ct. 151 (1996).

In the post-divorce period that involves payment of alimony from one ex-spouse to the other, Massachusetts law authorizes a judge to suspend, reduce, or terminate an alimony award based on a period of cohabitation where the spouses maintain a “common household” for at least three continuous months. (G. L. c. 208, § 49(d)). The definition includes the sharing of a primary residence with the other person, among other factors. The existence of such a relationship has an effect on the obligation of spousal support.

In summary, when it comes to divorce, a couple may count the years during which they were together prior to marriage, if they are able to provide proof. The evolving issues of same-sex divorce make it important to hire an experienced divorce lawyer as early in the process as possible. Because a same-sex divorce poses unique challenges, knowing your legal rights and options can be the key to fair treatment. Your divorce lawyer can help you tackle the complexities and ambiguities pertaining to same-sex couples in Massachusetts.

 Measuring the Length of Same Sex Marriage

Factbox: List of states that legalized gay marriage

(Reuters) – Twelve of the 50 U.S. states plus Washington, D.C., have legalized gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court was expected on Wednesday to issue rulings in two major cases relating to gay marriage.

The first three states to allow gay marriage did so because of court rulings permitting it, rather than through legislative action or putting the issue to voters to decide. Since mid-2009, six states have approved gay marriage laws by passing laws in state legislatures and three states by ballot initiatives.

In California, same-sex marriage was legal briefly in 2008 following a court ruling permitting it. Later that year, voters approved Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. The legal challenge to Proposition 8 went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here is a look at the states that have approved gay marriage.

Factbox: List of states that legalized gay marriage

Numbers show how gay marriage has fared in Massachusetts

In this Thursday, June 4, 2015 photo married couple Linda Bailey-Davies, 69, left, and Gloria Bailey-Davies, 74, both of Orleans, Mass., walk on a beach near their home, in Orleans. As the U.S. Supreme Court ponders the future of same-sex marriage, Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, offers a decade-long real world test of what happens when gay couples can legally marry. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — As the U.S. Supreme Court ponders the future of same-sex marriage, the nine justices could consider the experience in Massachusetts — the state with the longest-running real-world test of what happens when gay couples are allowed to tie the knot.

The legalization of same-sex marriages just over a decade ago has led to a steady stream of gay couples opting to take vows, a change that has grown routine in a state that was already known for its liberal social views.

Between May 2004 — when same-sex marriages were first allowed in Massachusetts — and the end of 2013, a total of 25,785 gay couples have married here, according to a review of state records by The Associated Press. That’s about 7 percent of the 368,675 marriages in Massachusetts during the same time period, out of a state population of 6.7 million.

There was an initial burst of same-sex marriages on and just after the May 17, 2004, the date set by the court for legalization. Some couples waited outside city halls in communities like Cambridge, where marriage ceremonies began just after midnight.

The pent-up demand led to more than 6,100 same sex-marriages by the end of 2004.

Linda Bailey-Davies, 69, and Gloria Bailey-Davies, 74, were one of those couples who exchanged vows on May 17 after a 33-year courtship. They were among seven couples in the landmark lawsuit. The couple, who live in the Cape Cod community of Orleans, say the legal status that comes with marriage is nearly as important as the public acknowledgment of their commitment.

„To me, being legal next of kin means that we can be at each other’s side no matter what happens in any medical situation,“ Gloria Bailey-Davies said. „It’s taken an awful lot of the fear of aging away.“

In the years since 2004, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 that same-sex marriages were protected by the state constitution, the number of gay marriages has tapered off and stabilized.

Between 2005 — after the initial crush of gay marriages — and 2013, the number of same-sex marriages has averaged nearly 2,200 each year out of the more than 35,000 weddings between opposite-sex couples that the state averaged each year during the same period. That means about 6 percent of the state’s marriages each year are between same-sex couples.

Perhaps the starkest revelation in the statistics in Massachusetts is the dramatic difference between the number of marriages involving two women compared with the number of marriages involving two men.

Between 2004 and 2013, there have been nearly 16,000 weddings of two women in Massachusetts, compared with about 9,900 involving two men.

What the statistics fail to reveal is how many of those same-sex weddings have ended in divorce, something the state doesn’t track.

While the overall number of divorces in the state has ticked up in recent years, Massachusetts has maintained one of the lowest overall divorce rates of any state — both before and after gay marriage was legalized.

In 2012, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Massachusetts had a divorce rate of 2.7 per 1,000 of the total population.

Only Illinois and Iowa had lower rates of the 45 states that reported divorce rates. Connecticut tied with Massachusetts.

Even so, same-sex marriages are not immune to the stresses that other marriages face.

The couple at the center of the state’s historic 2004 ruling, Julie and Hillary Goodridge, filed for divorce in 2009.

The state has also seen some high-profile same-sex nuptials since 2004, including the 2012 wedding of former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank to his longtime partner, Jim Ready, in a ceremony officiated by then-Gov. Deval Patrick.

More recently, Democratic state Senate President Stan Rosenberg, 65, announced plans to marry his partner, Bryon Hefner, 27. Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, at one time a staunch opponent of gay marriage, will officiate.

Not everyone has cheered. Kris Mineau, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Family Institute, led the fight against same-sex marriage.

His group collected more 120,000 voter signatures to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the state ballot that would have defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Lawmakers blocked the question in 2007.

„I believe it would have changed the course of history had we been able to vote here in Massachusetts,“ he said. „I don’t believe we’d be before the Supreme Court now.“

Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.

Numbers show how gay marriage has fared in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Gay Marriage to Remain Legal

BOSTON, June 14 — Same-sex marriage will continue to be legal in Massachusetts, after proponents in both houses won a pitched months-long battle on Thursday to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

“In Massachusetts today, the freedom to marry is secure,” Gov. Deval Patrick said after the legislature voted 151 to 45 against the amendment, which needed 50 favorable votes to come before voters in a referendum in November 2008.

The vote means that opponents would have to start from Square 1 to sponsor a new amendment, which could not get on the ballot before 2012. Massachusetts is the only state where same-sex marriage is legal, although five states allow civil unions or the equivalent.

Thursday’s victory for same-sex marriage was not a foregone conclusion, especially after the amendment won first-round approval from the previous legislature in January, with 62 lawmakers supporting it.

As late as a couple of hours before the 1 p.m. vote on Thursday, advocates on both sides of the issue said they were not sure of the outcome. The eleventh-hour decisions of several legislators to vote against the amendment followed intensive lobbying by the leaders of the House and Senate and Governor Patrick, who, like most members of the legislature, is a Democrat.

“I think I am going to be doing a certain number of fund-raisers for districts, and I am happy to do that,” said Mr. Patrick, who said he had tried to persuade lawmakers not only that same-sex marriage should be allowed but also that a 2008 referendum would be divisive and distract from other important state issues.

About 8,500 same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts since the unions became legal in May 2004. In December 2005, opponents, led by the Massachusetts Family Institute, gathered a record 170,000 signatures for an amendment banning same-sex marriage, a measure that was supported by Mr. Patrick’s predecessor, Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican who is now running for president.

Kris Mineau, president of the institute, did not indicate on Thursday whether opponents would start a new petition drive, but said, “We’re not going away.”

“We want to find out why votes switched and see what avenues are available to challenge those votes, perhaps in court,” Mr. Mineau said.

The vote reflected changes in the legislature, the election of Mr. Patrick, and lobbying by national and local gay rights groups.

“This was the focus of our national community,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Frankly, a loss today would have been very demoralizing.”

It is difficult to know how support for same-sex marriage has changed since legalization because polls taken before and after have asked different questions. The most recent Massachusetts poll, in April 2007, found that 56 percent of those surveyed would oppose the amendment.

One legislator who switched his vote was Representative Paul Kujawski, Democrat of Uxbridge, saying meetings with gay and lesbian constituents convinced him that “I couldn’t take away the happiness those people have been able to enjoy.”

Mr. Kujawski, who said he grew up in a conservative Roman Catholic neighborhood and had not understood gay relationships, said, “So many people said, ‘I didn’t ask to be gay; I was born this way.’ ”

He added, “Our job is to help people who need help, and I feel the gay side of the issue needed more help than the other side.”

Senator Gale D. Candaras, a Democrat, voted against the amendment Thursday, although she had supported it as a state representative in January. Ms. Candaras said her vote reflected constituent views in her larger, more progressive Senate district and her fear of a vicious referendum campaign.

Most moving, she said, were older constituents who had changed their views after meeting gay men and lesbians. One woman had “asked me to put it on the ballot for a vote, but since then a lovely couple moved in,” Ms. Candaras said. “She said, ‘They help me with my lawn, and if there can’t be marriage in Massachusetts, they’ll leave and they can’t help me with my lawn.”

Unlike several previous constitutional conventions on same-sex marriage with impassioned soliloquies, Thursday’s session took barely 10 minutes. Afterward, supporters of same-sex marriage, many in tears, erupted in standing ovations.

Massachusetts city approves polyamory, the inevitable consequence of gay ‘marriage’

July 3, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Earlier this year, a Utah Republican put forward a bill to decriminalize polygamy, receiving unanimous consent almost immediately from a key Senate committee. At the time, I noted that this was unsurprising: Once marriage was redefined and placed in a panoply of morally acceptable romantic arrangements, it was only a matter of time before the number of partners would mean as much as the sex of the partners. Which is to say, nothing. Even promiscuous multi-taskers can demand that the government endorse and financially support their sexual arrangements.

The word “family” now has no readily available meaning, and as such, the goalposts are shifting accordingly. On July 1, the New York Times reported, the City Council of Somerville, Massachusetts “now grants polyamorous groups the rights held by spouses in marriage, such as the right to confer health insurance benefits or make hospital visits.” Councillor J.T. Scott, who proudly noted that this was most likely the first municipal ordinance of this sort in the country (although surely not the last), attempted to pretend that this was simply a recognition of the large extended families that were once so common.

On Twitter, Ryan T. Anderson, scholar and author of What is Marriage and When Harry Became Sally, noted that this had been inevitable. He, and others, had predicted this before 2015’s Obergefell decision: “If the law redefines marriage to say the male-female aspect is arbitrary, what principle will be left to retain monogamy? If justice demands redefining marriage to include the same-sex couple, [what about] the throuple? Love equals love, after all.” 

“Once the law and culture says the male-female aspect of marriage violates justice and equality,” Anderson added, “we haven’t ‘expanded’ marriage, we’ve fundamentally redefined what it is. And those redefinitions have no principled stopping point.”

The Somerville City Council passed the motion unanimously, and the author of the ordinance, Lance Davis, even attempted to defend it in libertarian terms. “I don’t think it’s the place of the government to tell people what is or is not a family,” he told the New York Times. “Defining families is something that historically we’ve gotten quite wrong as a society, and we ought not to continue to try and undertake to do so…Based on conversations I’ve had, the most important aspect is that the city is legally recognizing and validating people’s existence. That’s the first time this is happening.”

This new state of affairs (ahem) has created a raft of new opportunities for people, and Scott says that he has “been inundated by calls and messages all day, including from lawyers interested in pursuing a similar measure at the state or federal level.” Because the ordinance does not specify that a romantic relationship is necessary, some people have already considered using it to “platonically” partner up. As the New York Times observed:

Once again, a government body is throwing its weight behind a new definition of family—and making a moral statement in the process. By claiming that we do not know what a “family” is, they are claiming we cannot know what a family is—and that, by definition, means it is whatever you want it to be. After all, if gender is fluid, why not marriage?

 homosexuality, massachusetts, polyamory, same-sex marriage

Reflecting on Massachusetts‘ historic gay rights ruling, 15 years later: ANALYSIS

A journalist reflects on how much things have changed in 15 years.

The moment felt historic. But it also felt precarious, as if the history being made could be unmade at any moment.

The Boston Globe had assigned me, then a junior political reporter, to man the steps of City Hall in Cambridge, Mass., as the clock struck midnight and the calendar flipped to May 17, 2004.

Same-sex marriage became legal at that moment, in accordance with a then-controversial Supreme Judicial Court ruling that no one was quite sure would stand.

A first crush of 41 couples lined up in the middle of the night to be the first gays and lesbians to be legally married in the United States, with some of the plaintiffs in the court case getting front-of-the-line treatment.

The scene was jubilant. A small group of protesters was drowned out by an exuberant crowd of gay activists and curious locals who had gathered under the brightly lit ancient bell tower in Central Square to witness history.

With 15 years’ remove from that moment, it’s difficult to remember how uncertain it all felt.

Just a few months earlier, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom had ordered that marriage licenses be issued to gay couples – only to have the California Supreme Court later invalidate them and the marriages that had been performed.

From the White House, President George W. Bush called the Massachusetts court ruling “deeply troubling” and voiced support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage nationwide.

Inside Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney was forced to implement a court ruling with which he vehemently disagreed, and that threatened to disrupt his future presidential prospects. Romney would not make it easy for gay couples; among other bureaucratic obstacles, he invoked a 90-year-old state law that had been written to block interracial marriage to prevent same-sex couples from other states from coming to the Bay State to wed.

It wasn’t just Republicans who were uncomfortable with how fast things were moving. Allowing gay couples to marry wasn’t a mainstream position in either political party back in 2004.

Sen. John Kerry – then a senator from Massachusetts, and the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 – opposed gay marriage throughout his campaign, favoring civil unions instead, in what was viewed as a progressive position at the time.

A full presidential cycle later, candidate Barack Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, opposed nationwide gay marriage in favor of civil unions.

“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage,” Obama said in November 2008 – on the eve of his election.

It would take another four years — and fully eight years after wedding bells first chimed for same-sex couples in Massachusetts — before Biden pronounced himself comfortable with gay marriage. Obama – then running for reelection – followed suit, acknowledging an “evolution” on the issue in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts that made him the first president to support gay marriage.

Even at that time, in 2012, gay marriage was legal in only six states plus the District of Columbia. The landmark Supreme Court case establishing a fundamental right to marry came in 2015 – effectively ending a political debate made more urgent on those courthouse steps 11 years earlier.

Now, in 2019, an openly gay presidential candidate has been featured on the cover of Time magazine alongside his husband. The Republican president he might run against said, just this week, he thinks “it’s great” that a married gay man is running.

In a pure historical coincidence, in May 2004 Pete Buttigieg was an undergrad at Harvard – in the very city, Cambridge, where the midnight marriage licenses were issued. The next time I interview him, I plan to ask him where he was that night.

I remember clearly the faces of many of those who got married and were celebrating those marriages in the middle of night, as TV lights illuminated rainbow flags.

They were those of an older interracial couple, probably in their 70s. I recall a bearded black man and a taller white man holding hands as they worked through the crowd and into the courthouse, smiling.

I thought at the time about the history they witnessed, and how improbable they must have found it that they would be able to marry. I wish I could ask them now if they find it even more remarkable that the politics around gay marriage have moved as quickly as they have since that day.

Massachusetts and Gay Marriages

Monday, May 17, 2004—a day that will live in moral and spiritual infamy. Homosexual and lesbian couples were granted by the state of Massachusetts the right to marry—the first state in U.S. history to do so. The Associated Press reported:

In Boston, David Wilson and Robert Compton became the first of the seven couples who sued the state to be married. At the Arlington Street Church, Wilson and Compton exchanged vows under a rainbow flag and to the strains of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus singing ‘Marry Us.’ An excerpt from the landmark Supreme Judicial Court decision that legalized gay marriage was read as an invocation at the Unitarian Universalist church. They were pronounced ‘partners for life’ at the end of the ceremony (see “Gay Couples…,” 2004).

President Bush renewed his call to Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. He asserted that “the sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges” (see Belleck and John, 2004).

Incredibly, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court justified its decision to require the state to license homosexual marriages by declaring that “the Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.” The court also asserted that the lawyers for the Commonwealth “failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples” (“Is Homosexual Marriage…?,” 2003).

If the Founding Fathers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were alive today, they would be heartsick and outraged. Did it cross the minds of the four activist justices to consult the General Laws of Massachusetts for the intention of the framers on this point of morality? If they had done so, they would have found that Part IV, Title I, Chapter 272 addresses “Crimes Against Chastity, Morality, Decency and Good Order.” If they would have examined Section 34—“Crimes Against Nature,” they would have found the following law: “Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with a beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years” (see “The General Laws…”). Section 35 addresses: “Unnatural and Lascivious Acts.” [Of course such laws were rendered meaningless in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historically and constitutionally unprecedented elimination of state sodomy laws (Lawrence et al.…, 2003)].

The “politically correct” mentality of the last fifty years is literally destroying this nation. The morally permissive, anti-Christian environment, that has been dumped like toxic waste on the social landscape of America, is a sinister betrayal and stark contradiction of the constitutional principles articulated both in the federal constitution and the constitutions of the original thirteen states. When the justices claimed to make their decision on the basis of the state constitution, did they pause to consider whether the framers of that constitution envisioned their literary production as allowing or approving same sex marriages? As a matter of fact, the original constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—America’s oldest written constitution, attributed largely to John Adams, and completed in 1780 even the national constitution—contains within it clear refutation of the leftist judicial activism being perpetrated today. Consider the following excerpts from the Massachusetts constitution:

Part the First. Article III. As the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon , in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily (see “Constitution…,” emp. added).

Would the justices be so foolhardy as to take the indefensible position that the “piety, religion, and morality” to which their constitution originally referred, the teaching of which was to be promulgated by the legislature, was anything but the morality of the Christian religion advocated in the New Testament—a morality that includes the unmistakable condemnation of same sex relations (e.g., Romans 1:24-29)? Perhaps the justices would like to explain why their allegedly constitutional zest for social engineering has not extended to a comparable enthusiasm for propagating the constitution’s own concern with the judiciary overstepping its bounds by infringing on legislative powers:

Article XXX. In the government of this commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them: the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them: and executive powers, or either of them: to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men (see “Constitution…,” emp. added).

Notice that the Massachusetts framers anticipated what would happen if the judiciary ventured into the legislative branch: “to the end it may be . Elected representatives pass laws based on unchanging, eternal, truths that are not subject to the whim of mere humans. The Founding Fathers of America understood the source of these immutable, universal values to be the laws of nature, or “natural law,” i.e., the laws of the God of the Bible—Whom the Declaration of Independence identified as “Nature’s God.” Listen to Founding Father Noah Webster’s observation: “[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion” (Webster, 1832, p. 6). You see, in a republic murder is always wrong—regardless of the will of the majority. Stealing, lying, adultery—and, yes, homosexuality, are always criminal behavior. When the citizens of the republic, or their judicial, legislative, and executive leaders, stray from the moral and spiritual moorings provided by the Bible, we should fully expect to be inundated with the sexual anarchy now taking place in our country.

In fact, John Adams, the first vice-president of the United States, and, as noted above, the one credited with much of the wording of the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, offered these prophetic words that ought to haunt, if not shame, four of the seven justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court:

[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, (Adams, 1807, 1:83, emp. added).

One would be hard pressed to find a more applicable description of the horrid social scenario unleashed by the judiciary.

One other declaration of the Massachusetts constitution merits consideration as well:

Article XXIX. It is essential to the preservation of the rights of every individual, his life, liberty, property, and character, (see “Constitution…,” emp. added).

Were the framers of the Massachusetts Constitution to be resurrected to pass judgment on their successors, there is little doubt that they would deem recent rulings as unmitigated judicial misbehavior. Most certainly, when all people stand before “the Supreme Judge of the world” (see “The Declaration…“), His view of same sex marriage, as clearly stated in Genesis 19:4-27, Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:10, and Jude 7, will prevail. But it will be too late for those who “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). Indeed, the “sexually immoral…shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8).

Massachusetts case legalizing marriage

Goodridge v. Mass. Department of Public Health, 440 Mass. 309 (2003).Massachusetts‘ „gay marriage“ decision. „Barred access to the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage, a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community’s most rewarding and cherished institutions. That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under law.“ 

Web sources

Adoption questions and answers, GLAD, June 2014Information for LGBT individuals and couples on „bringing unrelated children into the family or … securing the legal relationship of a second parent to the child of his or her partner or spouse.

Clarification of the definition of son or daughter: Administrator’s Interpretation No.2010-3, US Department of Labor, June 2010Expands and clarifies definitions as they apply to an employee standing “in loco parentis” to a child.

Federal benefits for same-sex partners, 2013The Office of Personnel Management provides benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of federal employees and annuitants.

Housing and mortgages for gay and lesbian couples“This guide will help to explain the different approaches that same-sex couples can take to getting a mortgage, establishing ownership of a home, and creating legal documents that anticipate any legal or property-ownership issues that might occur if the couple breaks up or one partner dies.“

How to get married in Massachusetts, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), July 2015″Sets forth the details for the process for marrying in Massachusetts – who can marry, how you get a license, what you need to bring with you, the waiting period, and who can perform the ceremony.“ Great resource for couples from any state.

A legal guide for lesbian and gay couples, Nolo, 2020This online book is not specific to Massachusetts. Requires free library card for access

Making it legal: a guide to same-sex marriage, domestic partnership and civil unions, Frederick C. Hertz with Emily Doskow, Nolo, 2018This online book is not specific to Massachusetts. Requires library card for access.

Overview of legal issues for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, GLAD, September 2018.Provides information on a variety of legal issues, including marriage and family issues.

Same sex marriage and immigrationExplains how to sponsor a same-sex spouse in immigration.

Social SecurityThe Social Security Administration now recognizes same-sex marriages for purposes of determining benefits. Includes lots of helpful information about social security benefits for same-sex couples.

Your rights in MassachusettsThe section on family law covers marriage of same-sex couples, adoption, custody and visitation, domestic violence, and other legal protections for same-sex couples.

Print sources

DOMA repeal and what it means to your clients, MCLE, 2013.

Estate planning for same sex couples: the changing landscape, MCLE, 2014.

Modern families: effective advocacy for lesbian and gay clients, MCLE, 2013.


Goodridge v. Department of Public Health was brought by Gloria Bailey and Linda Davies; Maureen Brodoff and Ellen Wade; Hillary Goodridge and Julie Goodridge; Gary Chalmers and Richard Linnell; Heidi Norton and Gina Smith; Michael Horgan and Edward Balmelli; and David Wilson and Robert Compton; the plaintiffs successfully argued that denying gay couples equal marriage rights was unconstitutional. The court specified that the original marriage law banned homosexuals from marrying. This law was left intact by the Goodridge ruling („Here, no one argues that striking down the marriage laws is an appropriate form of relief.“). [2] The court gave the Massachusetts Legislature 180 days in which to „take such action as it may deem appropriate“ following its November 18, 2003 ruling. Gov. Mitt Romney ordered town clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses on May 17, 2004.

The first applications for marriage licenses for same-sex couplesSame-sex couples formed long lines in anticipation, with some waiting outside the City Hall all evening May 16. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on the May 17, they were permitted to fill out their . The first to file were Marcia Hams and Susan Shepherd. Other cities and towns in Massachusetts began issuing applications later in the morning, during business hours.

Massachusetts normally has a three-day waiting period before issuing marriage licenses, but many couples obtained waivers of the waiting period in order to be wed on May 17. Among these were the seven couples who were party to the lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage, including Julie Goodridge and Hillary Goodridge, who were the first to apply for a license in Boston and whose eight-year old daughter Annie was their ringbearer and flower girl at their wedding at the Unitarian Universalist Association of Boston.

Cambridge took in 227 applications overnight; Provincetown took in 113; more than 1,000 applications were made on the first day statewide. Two-thirds of applicants were women, and one-half of the applicants had been partners for more than a decade. Forty percent of the female couples had children in their homes. In the first year, more than 6,200 gay and lesbian couples were married due to pent-up demand, but that number fell to only 1,900 marriages in the second year. Out of the total of more than 8,100 marriages, 64% involve lesbian couples. [3] In comparison, more than 36,000 heterosexual couples are married each year in Massachusetts.[4]

Governor Mitt Romney launched the „superslate“ campaign in 2004, based on the idea that the state Republican party could use Conservative ideals and family values as a wedge issue and gain seats, spending millions of his own dollars and personally campaigning for Republican candidates in traditionally Democratic seats. Despite his efforts, the Republican party nonetheless lost three seats in the 2004 election. Since then, many legislators have changed their views to reflect growing support for gay marriage among their constituents. One of the original sponsors of the amendment to ban gay marriage and legalize civil unions, Brian Lees, said, „Gay marriage has begun, and life has not changed for the citizens of the commonwealth, with the exception of those who can now marry.“ [5]