The First Legal Same-Sex Marriage Was In 2004 And Now, 11 Years Later, Let's Look Back — PHOTOS
Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court cited the constitution's ban on the creation of second class citizens and struck down the state's gay marriage ban. More than 600 couples rushed to town halls and court houses to get married, and they were greeted by cheering crowds and live bands in the streets, according to the Washington Post. Reactions to the first legal same-sex marriages were surprisingly beautiful and started a movement toward equality throughout the U.S. Now, 11 years later, the whole nation can celebrate.
Marcia Kadish and Tanya McCloskey had been together for 18 years before they became the first gay couple to legally marry in the U.S., according to the Huffington Post. They hadn't really intended to catch the limelight for their marriage. They told the Washington Post that they showed up early to city hall in Cambridge so they could get the ceremony over with and enjoy the rest of the day. Kadish told CNN that having the highest court in the state affirm her and McCloskey's "right to be a family" gave her courage. Kadish, who has now been married to McCloskey for more than a decade, told TouchVision the couple joked about what their marriage would mean on the morning of May 17, 2004:
She said to me, "Come on honey, let’s go make history!" She didn’t know she was really saying, meaning what she said.
After Cambridge City Clerk Margaret Drury declared Kadish and McCloskey married, they embraced, and Kadish jumped up and down excitedly while repeatedly thanking the city clerk, according to the Post.
Across the state, cheering crowds sang to newlywed couples and saluted them as they left court houses. Police at the time told the Post that about 10,000 people gathered outside the Cambridge City Hall. They were accompanied by a brass band, which played with the crowd, who alternated between singing "God Bless America" and "Chapel of Love." One male couple even carried a sign that read "49 years together," according to CNN, and on the back of it were pictures of their children and grandchildren.
By the end of the day, all seven gay couples involved in the Massachusetts court case that challenged the state's ban on same-sex marriage had finally been wed, according to the Post. The lead plaintiffs, Julie and Hillary Goodridge, were married in Boston. As the Goodridges walked down the aisle in pantsuits with their 8-year-old daughter, about 100 friends and family members sang, "Here comes the bride, all gay with pride." Goodridge spoke to the Post about the triumph:
This isn't anything anybody should be threatened by. We intend to uphold marriage as it exists today for the rest of our lives.
Alex Fennell told the New York Times in 2004 that her marriage to partner Sasha Hartman was "history." The couple showed up early and got the fifth spot in line to apply for a marriage license in Massachusetts. "Our kids can look back and say our moms were number five," Fennell told the Times.
Unfortunately, not all the remarks about the first legal gay marriages were good. Then Gov. Mitt Romney and former Republican presidential candidate invoked a law from 1913 to say that out-of-state couples could not marry in Massachusetts unless they intended to move to the state, according to the Times. Further, 12 of the state's 1,200 justices of the peace resigned rather than have to perform same-sex marriages. Across from the Carnegie City Hall stood about a dozen opponents of same-sex marriage. They were led by a Kansas minister, the Rev. Fred Phelps, and they held signs with slurs against gay people, according to the Times. Katherine Hockenbarger from Topeka, Kansas, was standing on an American flag when she shared her two cents with the Times:
Two men and two women marrying each other is a passport to hell.
Robyn Ochs, who worked in technology at Harvard in May 2004, married her partner, Peg Preble, that day. Ochs expressed concerns that are still present for gay people across the U.S. a decade later, when 13 states still have bans against same-sex marriage. Ochs told the Times:
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?
Some couples had been waiting so long to marry that the need didn't seem very pressing. Some didn't rush to the court houses in Massachusetts in 2004, because their love for each other wasn't going anywhere. They took their time and planned to celebrate in their own way. Greg Llacer told the Times he and his partner Doug Miller had planned their wedding for Thursday — three days after Massachusetts officially legalized same-sex marriage:
We may take the afternoon off, and after it's all over go to Taco Bell or something or mow the lawn. We're just kind of geeks. We're pretty understated, but I think we'll get dressed up. A jacket and tie at least.
Today and going forward, may all couples enjoy a wedding, and a taco, whenever they want.
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