BCAE photo exhibit celebrates 10-year anniversary of gay marriage

boston same sex marriage anniversary gay marriage
One of the images in the Boston Center for Adult Education’s 10-year same-sex marriage exhibit. Photographer Susan Symonds said of her photo: “This is an iconic image for me. Immersed in the turbulent blend of philosophies a moment of defiance revealed a welcome splash of lightness and humor.”
Credit: Susan Symonds

A decade ago photographer Marilyn Humphries was documenting what would become one of the most important movements ever for Massachusetts and, eventually, the rest of the country. 

“It was huge,” said Humphries, speaking of the movement and eventual legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. “If we had lost I really don’t know where we would be now. It would have backed the whole thing up a lot of years.”

Now some of Humphries’ photographs, in addition to pictures from two other photographers, are part of two displays at the Boston Center for Adult Education celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the first legal same-sex marriages in the nation.

Same-sex couples began marrying in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004, about six months after the state’s highest court ruled in favor of it and after failed attempts by some in the state legislature to block it. Since then, more than a dozen states have followed and now allow same-sex marriages.

“It’s like the domino effect in some ways,” said Humphries. “It’s sort of getting over the initial threshold and having gay and lesbian people marry and seeing that there isn’t a catastrophic effect from it.”

Boston-based photographer Joel Benjamin took portraits of several same-sex couples who have been married for 10 years for the exhibit. The portraits include all seven of the plaintiff couples from the Goodridge court decision that legalized it.

boston same sex marriage gay marriage anniversary
Part of the Boston Center for Adult Education’s exhibit on the 10-year anniversary of same-sex marriage. Rabbi Howard Berman and Steven Littlehale; together since 2001; married since May 17, 2004.
Credit: Joel Benjamin

“I think back to when I first came out and, to me, marriage equality was not even imaginable. So now photographing couples that have been married for 10 years is very rewarding,” he said.

Susan Symonds, another Boston-based photographer, captured some of the more intense moments of the movement, including the passionate demonstrations by supporters and opponents.

“I hope that [the exhibit] will say to people be strong, be committed, maintain that vision,” she said. “When we were doing this, there was absolutely no hope, no victories yet, so have faith in the big picture, in humanity, that we will make changes that everyone is accepted and there’s tolerance for everyone.”

boston gay marriage same sex marriage anniversary cambridge
Part of the Boston Center for Adult Education’s exhibit on the 10-year anniversary of same-sex marriage. On May 17, 2004, people gathered outside Cambridge City Hall, which opened at midnight, to celebrate the historic moment of legal marriage for same sex couples.
Credit: Marilyn Humphries

The exhibit aims to celebrate and tell the story of the struggle of the movement and the emotion involved in it.

Gay marriage “is now being approved in many different states, but if it weren’t for the efforts put forth here who knows what the story would be,” said Susie Brown, executive director of the BCAE. “The exhibit here … it clearly illustrates the range of emotions: the hatred felt by some to the jubilation felt by others. It tells a story that should never be forgotten and should continue to be celebrated.”

If you go

“The Hard-Won Fight: America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriage” and “Marriage Equality/10th Anniversary Portraits”

Exhibits will be on display throughout the Boston Center for Adult Education throughout May and June.


122 Arlington St., Boston

Open to the public, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on nights and weekends only when classes are in session.

Check online – www.bcae.org – for weekend hours.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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