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News :: Environment : Gender : Human Rights : Organizing
Gay Marriage in Massachusetts!
17 May 2004
Gay couples are getting married! On May 17th, 2004, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the first State of the Union to officially issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. #file_1# Victory celebrations were held across the state, and people lined up at their town and city offices hours in advance to request their marriage application.

Following a series of events that began on November 18th 2003, the State of Massachusetts has been a hot spot for Gay Rights activism during the last few months. The Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health case jump-started the issue when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that the equal protection provisions of the Massachusetts State Constitution required that same-sex couples be legally allowed to wed. A Constitutional Convention was called for early February, and State Representatives debated the difference between a Gay Marriage and a Vermont-style Civil Union. The Constitutional Convention reconvened in early March to debate the issue further. The final decision voted on by the State’s Representatives in late March defined marriage as a union between man and woman, while creating Civil Unions.

This decision was the first legislative step to overturn this groundbreaking decision in support of basic human rights. The Constitutional Convention must vote again next year to support the decision it made this year, after which the vote will be voted by the people of Massachusetts in a general election. Meanwhile, the original Supreme Court decision’s requirement that marriage licenses be issued to gays and lesbians beginning on May 17th has been upheld. New Marriage Applications have been created to accomidate the "sex" of those who wish to marry, and Town and City Clerks have been trained on the use of these new forms. Most Town and City offices scheduled to open Monday morning, business as usual, but some took special exception to this historic moment.

On the evening of the 16th, the grounds of Cambridge City Hall was festive and upbeat. Gay Rights advocates, friends and families of Gays and Lesbians, and committed couples waiting to tie the knot stood in line, cheered and generally celebrated the opportunity to declare their love and receive legal recognition of their unions. Police and anti-gay protesters were present, but their biased minority perspective was well-overcompensated for by the energy of the crowd. The typical anti-gay slogans, like “Hey hey, ho, ho, gay rights got to go” were drowned out by songs such as “I’m going to the chapel, gonna get married” and protester signs with messages like: “The sky hasn’t fallen”.

The City of Cambridge opened the Clerk’s office doors at 12am, and immediately began to issue marriage licenses. At midnight, the crowd was estimated at 5,000-10,000 people. #file_3# One attendee described the number of people as: “Definitely an insane amount of people. You have city hall, and city hall’s whole lawn, and that was covered. Then you have Mass Ave and it was packed full of people, and then people further down at the intersections. There was a constant flow of people in and out. It was pretty intense.”

At Boston’s Government Center this morning, the Marriage waiting line was out the door and around the corner of the building.#file_2# According to an official within the building, Boston’s Clerk’s office was only issued 80 new marriage applications for this historic occasion. Requests had been placed in Boston and at other City and Town Halls for more applications in anticipation of the large number of applicants. The media presence was outrageous, and couples stood in line clutching roses, holding hands or guardedly speaking with media representatives.

One man described the previous evening at Government Center, and interaction between an anti-gay group and the happy almost-married and their supporters:

“It was a party until after 1(pm). At one point, the protesters were chanting, and the gay advocates started singing “We are the Champions” until you couldn’t hear the protesters anymore.”

There is a standard 3-day wait-period for all marriage applications that can be waived by a court for immediate legal sanctimony. Some couples have chosen to have the court intervene on their behalf to legally wed today, while most couples are enjoying the 3-day wait period, equally, just like everyone else.

For more information on gay marriage in Massachusetts please review these previous IMC articles:

Massachusetts Constitutional Convention Moves Forward Amendment to Ban Gay Marriage but Create Civil Unions April 1, 2004
Civil Unions Today, Gay Marriage Tomorrow? March 12, 2004
The Massachusetts Constitution Has Not Been Amended to Ban Gay Marriage--For Now February 13, 2004
Separate But Equal isn’t Equal, MA Constitutional Amendment? February 9, 2004
Triumph for Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts! November 18, 2003.
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