First same-sex marriages in US were 14 years ago today in Massachusetts

Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage back in 2004, 11 years before the Supreme Court made them legal throughout the United States.
same sex marriage massachusetts
Moira Barrett (L) and Johanna Schulman, of Cambridge, ride in a car on June 12, 2004 during the 34th annual Boston Gay Pride Parade in Boston, the first since Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage. Photo: Getty Images

Thursday marks the 14th anniversary of the first same-sex marriages in the United States, which took place here in Massachusetts.

 

According to data obtained by the News Service, there have been 32,469 same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts since May 17, 2004, based on numbers that run through 2016.

 

That day in 2004 began for more than 260 couples at Cambridge City Hall, where the doors opened at midnight for same-sex couples to begin filing paperwork for marriage certificates. And at 9 a.m. sharp, Julie and Hillary Goodridge arrived in Boston to an eruption of applause and support.

 

"I don't think I could feel more exhilarated than I feel now," Hillary Goodridge, lead plaintiff in the court case that legalized gay marriage, said after exchanging vows with Julie Goodridge, her partner of 17 years, on May 17, 2004.

 

The marriages went off that day thanks to a court ruling that came down six months earlier. On Nov. 18, 2003, the state Supreme Judicial Court issued a 4-3 ruling clearing the way for Massachusetts to become the first state to legalize same-sex marriages, concluding that to deny gays and lesbians the right to wed violates the constitutional guarantee to equality and liberty under law.

The first same-sex weddings were followed by a campaign to put marriage equality on the ballot, an effort that spurred long debates in the Legislature. On June 14, 2007 the Massachusetts Legislature derailed a citizen petition banning gay marriage from appearing on the 2008 ballot, voting 151-45 to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment and effectively ending debate here.

After a wave of more than 6,100 same-sex marriages in 2004, same-sex marriages have proceeded at a steady pace throughout Massachusetts, with on average 989 male-male marriages each year and 1,507 female-female marriages per year, according to state Department of Public Health.

"It's been normalized," said Deborah Shields, executive director of MassEquality. "For many people it's a lot of the same-old, same-old."

The advocacy group these days is pushing legislation on Beacon Hill to ban conversion therapy, aiming to guard the LGBTQ community from Trump administration actions, and monitoring a U.S. Supreme Court case involving a Colorado baker who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding.

In 2016, the latest year for which statistics are available, there were 911 male-male marriages and 1,119 female-female marriages, compared to 37,582 male-female marriages. The 39,652 total marriages in 2016 was the largest number for any single year since same-sex marriages began.

Over the 12-plus years covered by the state data, there have been 12,866 male-male marriages, 19,603 female-female marriages and 449,471 male-female marriages in Massachusetts.

Same-sex marriage was legalized on a state-by-state basis following the Goodridge decision. After same-sex marriage had been adopted in a majority of states, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 legalized same-sex marriage across the country with its landmark Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Even an opponent of same-sex marriage like Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Lively admitted this week that fighting is futile. "We're stuck with it," he said in an interview Wednesday.

Lively said he would have supported granting same-sex couple rights, such as hospital visitation, without changing the institution of marriage, but would not try to change it if elected governor. Instead, he said he just wants the state to "gets its thumb off the scale in the contest between people of faith and people from the LGBT community." "I really just believe that when it comes to public policy we have to preserve a mainstream culture that's grounded in the heterosexual norm. That's what's healthy, that's what we need. The natural family is the ecosystem of humanity," Lively said.

Gov. Charlie Baker, the incumbent Republican, supports same-sex marriage.

 
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