Happy Ten-Year Anniversary of Marriage Equality in Massachusetts

HRC Celebrates 10 Years of Marriage Equality in Massachusetts
May 17, 2014 by Marty Rouse, National Field Director


Ten years ago, I was in Northampton, Massachusetts, watching Heidi and Gina Nortonsmith get their marriage certificate. They were the first same-sex couple to be married at Northampton City Hall on the first day of marriage equality in Massachusetts.  What I most remember is how their youngest son kept fiddling with his tie to make sure it was just perfect.  And I will never forget how along the few blocks walk from the courthouse to City Hall, police officers stopped traffic to allow them to cross the street, television camera crews filming every step.  The police officers smiled and said, "Congratulations!"  Shop owners along Main Street came out and waved and shouted good wishes.  Passersby applauded, some wiping tears away as they witnessed history being made in their state.

As Campaign Director for MassEquality, the Massachusetts group that was formed to defend marriage equality in the Bay State, I was honored to be a part of this multi-year struggle.  LGBT advocates had been fighting for years in the Bay State for equal rights.  

Mary Bonauto and the rest of the legal team at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders brilliantly argued and won Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health.  Mary's brilliance, tenacity, and legal acumen changed America.

The Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus had been fighting in the state house for two decades.  Their savvy and well-respected lobbyist Arline Isaacson helped craft the strategy that led our legislative allies to success in eventually defeating attempts to take away marriage rights.  When everyone thought the legislature was going to take away marriage rights, Arline and her colleague Norma Shapiro of ACLU Massachusetts, with dozens of years of experience on Beacon Hill, knew the legislators sometimes better than they knew themselves.  

Josh Friedes and Valerie Fein-Zachary built a grassroots army of lovers across the state over a decade.  The Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts became a powerful voice across the state, talking about marriage equality years before most people were comfortable discussing marriage.  

When the Supreme Judicial Court issued its ruling in favor of marriage equality, the many groups working to build support for marriage, including the ACLU, Bisexual Resource Center, Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts, the Gay and Lesbian Bar Association of Massachusetts, GLAD, Gay Men of African Descent, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, banded together to form MassEquality.  Slowly but surely MassEquality combined the tremendous grassroots network into a political and electoral powerhouse.

MassEquality went to work defeating legislators who opposed marriage equality and worked to elect many new supporters. 

Ten years ago, the decades of work and the thankless efforts of so many, made history.  Those efforts continue to make history all across our country and in honor of those who came before us and help lead us to this great achievement, we continue to work so that future generations of Americans will live in a country that does indeed provide liberty and justice for all.

Thank you to the plaintiffs, GLAD attorneys, and MassEquality's coalition of 17 organizations that helped to make Massachusetts marriage a reality.

Read more from the Massachusetts blog series here.