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State-Sanctioned Gay Marriages Begin in Massachusetts

BY Admin  May 17, 2004 at 11:17 AM EDT

Tanya McCloskey, 52, and Marcia Kadish, 56, of Malden, Mass., were among the first to be married after 18 years together. The couple wasted no time getting their marriage license — after receiving a marriage application in the early morning hours, they then got a waiver from the usual three-day waiting period and returned to city hall Monday morning to exchange vows.

“It was really important to us to just be married. We want to be married as soon as we possibly can. Part of it is, we don’t know what the legislature is going to do,” McCloskey told the Associated Press.

At 9:15 a.m., Cambridge City clerk Margaret Drury told the couple: “I now pronounce you married under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Across the Charles River in Boston, the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the landmark court ruling, Hillary and Julie Goodridge, began the process of getting a license so they could be married later in the day.

Three years ago they were turned away from Boston City Hall when they sought a marriage license. On Monday, Mayor Thomas Menino greeted them personally.

“Once again, we’ve broken down a barrier in the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts,” Menino said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The Goodridges and six other same-sex couples sued the state of Massachusetts in 2001, claiming they were being discriminated against because they were not permitted to get a marriage license.

That suit eventually led to a state Supreme Judicial Court ruling in November 2003 stating that gays and lesbians had a right under the state constitution to wed.

In the days leading up to the Monday deadline for the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, opponents looked to the federal courts to block the marriages. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene paving the way for the first such unions in the United States.

In Cambridge, city hall opened at midnight to allow some 250 couples to fill out application forms for marriage licenses. A crowd of some 10,000 people, according to police estimates provided to the Boston Globe, converged outside city hall to celebrate the nuptials and observe history in the making.

About 15 protesters, most from Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church, stood near City Hall holding signs with anti-gay slogans. The group, led by the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., travels around the country to protest homosexuality.

Ray McNulty, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Family Institute, one of the leading organizers of opposition to same-sex marriage, criticized some of the protesters and said there was no need for hateful speech.

“What’s going on down there is legal, and as far as I’m concerned, give those people their happiness for the day,” McNulty told the AP.

Some couples from outside Massachusetts came to the Bay State to wed despite Gov. Mitt Romney’s warnings that he will enforce a 1913 statute baring out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their union would be illegal in their home state.

Romney, a gay-marriage opponent, has said the law will be enforced and clerks who give licenses to nonresidents may face legal implications.

Local officials in Provincetown, Worcester and Somerville, have said they will not enforce Romney’s order and will grant licenses to any couples who ask, as long as they sign the customary affidavit stating that they know of no impediment to their marriage.