Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Hundreds of homosexual couples in Massachusetts yesterday received the nation’s first state-sanctioned marriage licenses, amid joyous celebrations, weddings and music.

Yesterday’s events were a culmination of a three-year battle to legalize same-sex “marriage” in the state led by plaintiffs Hillary and Julie Goodridge

“Next to the birth of our daughter, this is the happiest day of our lives,” Julie Goodridge said.

“It’s exhilarating, it’s absolutely thrilling, it’s overwhelming. I’m so happy,” Hillary Goodridge said.

Traditional-values leaders, however, lamented the events as a “truly dark day” and urged Americans to fight to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

President Bush said the institute of marriage shouldn’t be defined “by a few activists judges.”

“I have called on the Congress to pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. The need for that amendment is still urgent, and I repeat that call today,” Mr. Bush said.

“May God help us,” said leaders of the Campaign for California Families, a nonprofit group seeking to preserve traditional marriage in California.

Same-sex “marriages” in Massachusetts began just after midnight yesterday when officials in Cambridge opened their doors almost nine hours early to issue marriage licenses.

By 9:15 a.m., one of the first same-sex couples was married: “Now by the power vested in me by the state of Massachusetts as a justice of the peace, and most of all by the power of your own love, I now pronounce you married under the laws of Massachusetts,” Margaret Drury, city clerk of Cambridge told Marcia Kadish, 56, and Tanya McCloskey, 52.

“You may seal this marriage with a kiss,” Ms. Drury added as the two women embraced.

Homosexual rights activists and their allies praised yesterday’s ceremonies as a new day for equality in America.

“This is an historic day for our community, as we see the walls of marriage discrimination begin to crumble… we stand shoulder to shoulder with all fair-minded Americans who fight for equality today,” said Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights group.

“We are so happy for the loving same-sex couples who may now, finally, fully protect their relationships and families under the law and take responsibility for one another’s lives,” said leaders of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the law firm that won the landmark Goodridge decision.

The Goodridges were greeted by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino when they applied for their license yesterday. They “wed” yesterday afternoon in a Unitarian Universalist church.

The other six Goodridge plaintiff couples were also scheduled to be “married” in ceremonies across the state.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is fighting for recognition for almost 4,200 same-sex “weddings” performed in that city earlier this year, praised Massachusetts for its “enlightened national leadership.” Other well-wishers included the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, described Massachusetts’ same-sex marriage documents as “death certificates for the institution of marriage.”

“What makes this a truly dark day is that gay marriage is only the beginning” of constitutional marriage rights for other nontraditional relationships, including marriages between multiple partners, relatives and even pets, he said.

“Homosexual activists will be saying over and over this week, ‘See, gay couples were married, and the sky didn’t fall,’” said Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America. “But this is deceptive. We know that social change happens over time. … [C]reating counterfeit marriage will damage the real thing and put more children at risk.”

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who opposes the “marriages,” said yesterday that an issue “as fundamental to society as the definition of marriage should be decided by the people. Until then, I intend to follow the law and expect others to do the same.”

This was apparently a reference to his directive that city and town clerks follow a 1913 law and not wed out-of-state couples who can’t otherwise marry in their home states.

But many same-sex couples that “married” yesterday were from out of state, including two men from Alabama.

“We’ll fight this in the courts if we need to,” said John Sullivan, 37, a lawyer.

“Our license might not be worth anything in Alabama, but it will some day,” added Chris McCary, 43.

Massachusetts, the Netherlands, Belgium and three Canadian provinces are the only places in the world where homosexuals can legally “marry.”

• This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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