Massachusetts Celebrates 10 Years of Marriage Equality
Nov. 18, 2013, marks the 10th anniversary of the marriage equality law passing in the state of Massachusetts. The landmark decision in 2003 placed the state as the first to legalize same-sex unions with the full benefits and responsibilities of traditional marriage.
Following in the movement, 14* other states of the union, and the District of Columbia, now recognize same-sex marriage as a viable measure of constitutional rights. Illinois is poised to be the 16th state with its marriage equality bill set to be signed into law on Nov. 20. Hawaii, the most recent state, upheld the passing of its bill Nov. 14, following a challenge by opponents, saying voters believe they barred same-sex marriage 15 years ago in the state constitution. The law takes effect Dec. 2, 2013.
Chronologically, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington D.C., New York, Washington, Maine, Maryland, California, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and New Jersey are among the 30 percent to pass such a law in the country since 2004. Yet, with the exception of New Mexico, the remaining 34 states have laws banning same-sex marriages in their constitutions.
"As state after state has tried to deal with this issue, what has influenced legislators the most is face-to-face contact with LGBT folks, finding out they're just as normal as everyone else," Bob Cory of Lawrence, Mass., told EDGE.
According to Cory, his same-sex marriage is no different from any other marriage.
"I think our marriage is as normal as anyone else's, although we don't have kids. We jointly own our home, and, to be honest, have too much crap in it to ever move," he said. "We are in the process of rewriting our wills, powers of attorney, etc. It's nice to know there's less to do about that than there would have been 10 years ago because we don't have to define in writing all the details of our relationship to make things legal."
On May 17, 2004, the day the Massachusetts state law took effect, Bob Cory and his partner of 21 years at the time, registered for a marriage license with Lawrence City Hall, the second couple to do so in the city that day, said Cory.
"We did not get a waiver through the court to get married the same day we registered, so the earliest day we could get married was May 20," said Cory. "We were the second couple to register at Lawrence City Hall that Monday. The women who registered ahead of us were going to have a more formal wedding, so were the first to get married in Lawrence."
The northern city of Lawrence lies in the Merrimack Valley and as of 2012 had a population upward of 77,000. With an embattled reputation for crime, drugs and corruption, Boston Magazine, in a 2012 profile, heralded it the "City of the Damned."
Cory, however, says the more conservative city is respectful of gay marriage.
"Lawrence has never been a liberal bastion of thought," he said. "With the city being over 70 percent Hispanic, the Catholic Church and some fundamentalist churches have fairly strong influence in the lives of many Lawrencians, but as far as I know there has been no anti-gay marriage political activism in the city."
At the federal level, having the full rights of marriage, and the dissolutions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and "don't ask, don't tell", have been a blessing for Cory.
"I am retired military, so getting rid of 'don't ask, don't tell' was a major cause for celebration, even though I was already retired when it was struck down," he said.
DADT, however, did not affect his veterans benefits as he and husband decided not to list him as beneficiary of Cory’s pension, he said. Also, having been cited as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court this summer, the striking down of part of DOMA has allowed Cory and his husband to jointly file federal tax returns retroactively for the last three years.
While Cory’s life may be as normal as any heterosexual’s married life, there are still active opponents of gay marriage in Massachusetts. Brian Camenker, founder and president of MassResistance, a group that promotes socially conservative positions on issues such as gay marriage, abortion, gun control and anti-bullying, is one such opponent.
In 2012, Camenker published the pamphlet "What same-sex ’marriage’ has done to Massachusetts" that demonizes marriage equality. It opens with: "Anyone who thinks that same-sex ’marriage’ is a benign eccentricity which won’t affect the average person should consider what it has done to Massachusetts since 2004. It’s become a hammer to force the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality on everyone. The slippery slope is real. New radical demands never cease. What has happened in the last several years is truly frightening."
The eight-page document vilifies homosexuality and denounces the so-called gay agenda citing gay propaganda in health care spending, employment standards, adoption rights, government mandates and public school curriculum, among several others.
One section claims a lobbying push for gay domestic violence programs garnered an exorbitant portion of the state’s budget: "Every year more state money goes to deal with the high incidence of homosexual domestic violence. Since ’gay marriage’ began, Massachusetts has one of the highest proportions of homosexuals living as couples in the country. Given the extremely dysfunctional nature of homosexual relationships, the Massachusetts Legislature has felt the need to spend more and more money to deal with that problem."
Cory, however, is not slighted.
"Nothing has changed in heterosexuals’ lives because I am married," said Cory. "My life has changed. The way we have tried to change things and attitudes is to be open and honest examples of normal lives. If that changes someone’s thinking about gays and their rights, I’m doing something to change the world."
Today, the Boston Bar Association’s Boston Bar Journal plans to produce a special edition to mark the 10th anniversary of the Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision, giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry in Massachusetts. In its 4-3 ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court wrote, "We declare that barring an individual 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 added: "The marriage ban works a deep and scarring hardship on a very real segment of the community for no rational reason. Limiting the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the basic premises of individual liberty and equality under law protected by the Massachusetts Constitution."