Category Archives: Massachusetts

Salem Authors Chronicled Marriage Equality Struggle

On the tenth anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts, Tom Dalton of the Salem News interviewed Patricia Gozemba about Courting Equality:

SALEM — Marriage was on the minds of Patricia Gozemba and Karen Kahn when they set out nearly a decade ago to write their book: “Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages.”

Marriage was on their minds — just not their own marriage.

The two longtime feminists and activists, who had been together since 1990, began working on the book in the summer of 2005, or about a year after the historic first marriage in Cambridge City Hall.

A few months into the project, however, they decided to get hitched. And they decided to hold the ceremony in Cambridge.

Watching history unfold before their eyes helped them realize what an important right marriage is.

“We’re both kind of old-time feminists …” said Gozemba, 74, a retired Salem State professor and local environmental activist. “But the both of us realized all the kinds of social and even societal benefits there were to being married in terms of legal protections, economic protections and all the rest.”

Although she says there is still a long way to go to achieve equality for the lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender community, Gozemba credits the current occupant of the White House with advancing the rights of same-sex couples.

“The Obama Administration has been tremendously helpful in assuring more equality … and allowing us to file taxes together. And new Social Security benefits are coming down where surviving spouses can get the Social Security (benefits) of their spouses.”

Looking back a decade, the two Salem women are proud to have been part of history as activists, authors and a same-sex married couple.

“We’re very excited about this 10th anniversary,” said Gozemba. “Massachusetts certainly showed the way.”

Obama Administration Repudiates DOMA

Pat Gozemba

As we await Hawai’i Governor Neil Abercrombie’s signature on a civil unions bill later today, the news from Washington, Dc is fabulous. US Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama have concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and indefensible.

Of course this will not be the end of the story. Congress and other parties will probably get involved and do a lot of grandstanding about marriage equality but a very big decision for equality has been made.

It will be thrilling and challenging to watch how this next phase of our civil rights battle plays out. I do not expect it to be a cakewalk–by any means.

The DOMA challenges from GLAD’s Mary Bonauto and MA Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley pushed the envelope in the struggle for equality.

Check out the full story in Obama Orders End to Defense of Federal Gay Marriage Law.

MA Lessons for Hawai’i Civil Unions Struggle

by Pat Gozemba
Testimony that I submitted to the Hawai’i House Judiciary Committee for its Feb. 8, 2011 hearing:

Civil Unions in Hawai’i
Understanding the Massachusetts Experience

To: Members of the House and Senate, Hawai’i State Legislature, considering civil unions legislation (SB 232, SB 231, HB 1244, and HB 1453)

From: Patricia A. Gozemba, co-author of Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages (Beacon Press, 2007)

Re: FIVE TRUTHS BASED ON THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
Getting Beyond the Mistruths in “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts” (2008) by Brian Camenker of MassResistance

Date: February 7, 2011
I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the manner in which Senator Clayton Hee conducted the Senate Judiciary Hearing on SB 232 on January 25, 2011. Throughout the hearing, however, one senator on the Judiciary Committee and several members of the public quoted, without citing, “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts” (2008).

I am a part-time resident of Hawai’i and permanent resident of Massachusetts, as well as a researcher and writer on issues of concern to our LGBT community. I know first-hand the distortion of reality by Brian Camenker in relation to the book, Courting Equality that my spouse, Karen Kahn and I co-authored.

His Massachusetts-based group Mass Resistance has been cited for the past four years as an Anti-Gay Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog of hate groups in the US.

In Massachusetts, Brian Camenker’s work is generally regarded as not worth addressing seriously because it is so fraught with purposeful distortions. But given its emergence again in Hawai’i at this critical moment of the consideration of several bills addressing civil unions, I want to give you a sense of the egregiousness of some of Camenker’s misinformation. To that end, I highlight just five truths that are lost in the many deliberate “mistruths” of Camenker’s “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts.”

Karen and I were married in MA in 2005. Like the nearly 19,000 married same-sex couples in our state, we are grateful to have been able to marry and to enjoy the same rights, benefits, and family protections as all other citizens of the Commonwealth. We wish the same for other LGBT couples in Hawai’i.

As you consider Civil Unions Legislation in Hawai’i, you may find this helpful.

Five Truths based on the Massachusetts Experience

1. It will NOT force any school or any teacher to teach about marriage or homosexuality

2. Books about the struggle for same sex marriage were NOT distributed at taxpayer expense to schools
3. Rates of HIV/AIDS have dropped since same-sex marriage became legal.
4. Domestic violence occurs among people in same-sex relationships at similar rates to people in heterosexual relationships.
5. The legalization of same-sex marriage has had NO EFFECT on the level of funding for programs to combat homophobia and provide respite and support for youth who may or may not be gay, but who may be subject to bullying

TRUTH #1

The First Circuit’s ruling in the Parker v. Hurley case DID NOT mandate the teaching of any subject or course material, nor did it say that the school had any duty to teach about marriage or any other subject. Rather, in response to the claims by Robert and Robin Wirthlin and David and Tonia Parker of Lexington, MA that their free exercise rights had been violated, the Court found that “the mere fact that a child is exposed on occasion in public school to a concept offensive to a parent’s religious belief does not inhibit the parent from instructing the child differently.” Overall, the decision found that including a few books with depictions of same-sex couples in the curriculum did not violate the constitutional rights of students or parents – NOT that those books must be included or taught. (Source: Nima Eshgsi, Esq. of Gay, Lesbian, Advocates and Defenders).

Brian Camenker’s assertions to the contrary do not make them true.

TRUTH # 2

Courting Equality tells the story of how LGBT people and their allies across the state used the democratic political process to expand civil rights for LGBT people. The donors thought this book would inspire teenagers to become active participants in democracy. They “offered” the book as a gift, and no high school GSA or library was forced to accept it.

Locally, Dawn Morais Webster wrote about Courting Equality in “Seeing Is Believing for LGBT Family and Friends,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Jan. 31, 2011.

Camenker’s statement that “homosexual groups have been using taxpayer money to distribute a large, slick hardcover book celebrating homosexual marriage titled “Courting Equality” to every school library in the state” is a lie. He demonstrated as much when he reported on Sept. 27, 2007, to his own listserv that Chip McLaughlin and Keith Maynard donated private funds to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) for distribution of Courting Equality (Beacon Press, 2007), to Gay/Straight Alliances (GSA) in MA public high schools and to the libraries of high schools that do not have GSAs.

TRUTH # 3
Rates of HIV/AIDS have NOT gone up since same-sex marriage became legal.
In fact, the number of new HIV cases has dropped by more than 25 percent over the past six years, the decrease accelerating since the implementation of same-sex marriage. Additional funding was available at the beginning of FY09 to address the disparate impact of HIV/AIDS in communities of color. However, since then, given current budget crises, funding for HIV/AIDS has declined by $1.75M. (Source: Kevin Cranston, Director, Bureau of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts Department of Public Health).

Again, Camenker lies when he says that “Since homosexual marriage became ‘legal’ the rates of HIV / AIDS have gone up considerably in Massachusetts. This year public funding to deal with HIV/AIDS has risen by $500,000.”

TRUTH # 4
Domestic violence occurs among people in same-sex relationships at similar rates to people in heterosexual relationships. However, many domestic violence programs are unable to work effectively with same-sex victims of domestic violence because they lack adequate training—thus, the state’s interest in providing funding. The legalizing of same-sex marriage has had no detectable effect on rates of same-sex domestic violence. (Source: Carlene Pavlos, Director, Division of Violence and Injury Prevention, Massachusetts Department of Public Health.)

Camenker offers this lie on the subject: “Given the extreme dysfunctional nature of homosexual relationships, the Massachusetts Legislature has felt the need to spend more money every year to deal with skyrocketing homosexual domestic violence. This year $350,000 was budgeted, up $100,000 from last year.”

TRUTH # 5
The legalization of same-sex marriage has had NO EFFECT on the level of funding for efforts to combat homophobia by supporting programs such as Gay-Straight Alliances and Safe Spaces for LGBT Youth. These programs, which began in the early 1990s long before same-sex marriage became legal, provide respite and support for youth who may or may not be gay, but who may be subject to slurs and hate speech from their peers or sometimes hateful adults.

Camenker, however, asserts: “Since homosexual relationships are now officially ‘normal,’ the Legislature now gives enormous tax money to homosexual activist groups. “ Not true.
Additional General Information about Anti-Gay Hate Groups and Their Message
The hateful portrayal of LGBT people promoted by Brian Camenker through his organization Mass Resistance.org has been rebutted by LGBT organizations and mainstream, predominantly heterosexual, organizations ranging from the NAACP to the ACLU.

In their Intelligence Report (Winter 2010), the Southern Poverty Law Center published an article by Evelyn Schlatter and Robert Steinback, “10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked,” which lays bare the specious arguments promoted by anti-gay hate groups including Mass Resistance. Hateful messages hurt us all. Let’s speak truth to hate.

Sources
Southern Poverty Law Center

Brian Camenker

GLAD


Dawn Morais Webster

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

“10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked”

Patricia A. Gozemba
http://www.courtingequality.com

Fought in Maine but Married in Mass.

Tambry Young and Suzanne King wed in Salem, MA on 11.7.09

Tambry Young and Suzanne King wed in Salem, MA on 11.7.09

Tribute

by Pat Gozemba

Tambry Young and Suzanne King, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the people of Massachusetts, represented by those of us gathered here today on November 7, 2009 in Salem, recognize and celebrate your relationship of 28 years.  We honor the extraordinary efforts that you have taken to protect your relationship and your 9-year-old daughter Shylar.

You have travelled thousands of miles from your native land, from the state of Hawai’i, to Massachusetts a state where your love is honored, your family is acknowledged, and your civil right to marry is guaranteed. May that civil right be granted one day to all of the people in Hawai’i.

Karen and I met you when we joined the Hawai’i Family Equality Coalition struggle for civil unions. We had the privilege of seeing you emerge as leaders of the movement with Tambry becoming co-chair of the coalition.  As a Native Hawaiian family you speak out publicly for the rights of all lesbians and gays living in Hawai’i to have the option to marry.  You are profiles in courage for those who live in fear.

The joy and commitment of your lives inspires others, especially young people, straight and LGBT, to join the struggle for civil rights for all.

I wasn’t surprised at all when Tambry decided to come to Maine to join the fight to protect marriage equality in the “No on 1” campaign. What does surprise me, a bit , is that 15 days after she landed in Boston and we traveled to Maine and did endless hours of phone-banking and data tallying we are at this moment today—her  marriage to Suzanne.

The struggle for equality in Maine led to this celebration of equality today in Massachusetts. On October 24th the day Tambry landed in Boston, Karen took her on a little walking tour of our Salem Willows neighborhood and introduced her to some of the many LGBT families in our little community. Over cocktails later, Tambry mused “what’s up” all these out gay people and their kids?  Everybody is so open. She had met Olga and Julie and their daughters Mattea and Marina and that was just the beginning.

Two days later on Monday Karen mused, “You know Tambry you could get married in Massachusetts.” In a rare a-historical moment, I the lesbian historian said, “Yeah, you could use our address.” Karen looked at me and said, “Honey, anyone can come to Massachusetts and get married.”  Oh, yeah, we fought for that right too and we’re so glad we did.

A day later, Tambry and I went to Boston’s Top of the Hub, where Marilyn took Karen and me for our wedding luncheon in 2005.  Great spot.  Marvelous view of the city. Weddings were on our minds. Tambry wondered if she could get Suzanne and Shylar to Massachusetts. Next thing we knew, Suzanne was on the phone and a proposal was in the works.

An elaborate proposal ritual followed in which Tambry topped every gesture of courtly love that I had ever imagined. On Friday, October 30th in the lobby of the Coldwell Banker office in Honolulu, Tambry’s friend Amy delivered to Suzanne flowers and a box of chocolates with a card inside showing Tambry on bended knee outside the “No on 1” campaign office in Portland, Maine asking Suzanne to be her wife.  I encourage all of you to check out the card in the slide show. It’s a winner.

Well, Suzanne accepted the proposal and here we are today at this exciting moment of equality. I wish that every person in Maine who voted against marriage equality could look in their hearts and reconsider what kind of a victory it is to deny beautiful families like that of Suzanne, Tambry, and Shylar the security , commitment, and love of marriage.

We are blessed to be in Massachusetts where our constitution recognizes that Tambry and Suzanne are part of the “’we’ in we the people.” May equality take on a new life all over this country from Maine to Hawai’i. Our resolve and more importantly our love will win the day.

Tambry, Suzanne, and Shylar you are leading the way. May your lives be blessed.

Marriage Proposal

Tambry makes a long-distance proposal to Suzanne

Tambry makes a long-distance proposal to Suzanne

Tambry arrived in Massachusetts from Honolulu, HI, a week ago to help out with Maine’s “No on 1″ campaign. Then she realized, she could do more than fight for the right to marriage—she could marry her partner of 28 years here in Massachusetts. So an elaborate proposal was put together long-distance, that included the above photograph. Suzanne said “yes”—and on Saturday, November 7, Suzane and Tambry will marry in Salem, MA, with many of our Courting Equality friends there as witnesses. Suzanne and daughter, Shylar, fly in on November 4 to begin the festivities! Everybody wish them well!

Kennedy: LGBT Equality Champion

By Pat Gozemba

Ted Kennedy, a champion of so many causes for equality for such diverse communities, is gone. But his legacy and example will continue to inspire many of us for years to come.

On November 18, 2003, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in the Goodridge v DPH decision, Kennedy was one of the first voices to speak out and laud the decision. In Courting Equality we captured that moment. “Senator Edward Kennedy greeted the Goodridge decision as ‘a welcome milestone on the road to full civil rights for all our citizens.’” He added emphatically, “Gay couples deserve these rights as well” (p. 22)

While a Catholic, he saw the problems with that faith’s discrimination against LGBT people. Like his brother, John F. Kennedy, and the founders of this country, he understood that religion has no place in government.

As the Goodridge decision captured the imaginations of LGBT people across the country to strive for the equality newly granted in Massachusetts, religion-driven conservatives threw up roadblocks in state after state. Claiming that our equality impinged on their religious values, these cultural conservatives held enormous sway. Despite their acrimonious uproar about marriage equality, Kennedy stuck with his principled position.

In 2005, he said “On the issue of gay rights, I continue to strongly support civil marriage. It is wrong for our civil laws to deny any American the basic right to be part of a family, to have loved ones with whom to build a future and share life’s joys and tears, and to be free from the stain of bigotry and discrimination.” Kennedy brought the values of Massachusetts to the national stage.

He was one of the few who voted in the Senate against DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) in 1996. And sometimes in the Senate he pushed values that Massachusetts had not quite caught up with like a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

A great champion for LGBT people is gone. The person who will attempt to fill his shoes must be as committed to equality.

Happy Five Years of Marriage Equality

Pat Gozemba

The sky has not fallen. Heather still has her two mommies. The religious right is still predicting dire consequences. Thus far their crystal ball has been very murky at best to downright wrong at worst.

As of September 2008, 12, 350 same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts. The latest reports by UCLA’s Williams Institute indicate that “after five years of extending marriage to gay couples, new studies show Massachusetts has attracted highly-skilled workers and experienced an economic boost of over $100 million.”

The Williams Institute continues to do important research indicating the economic impact of marriage equality on states like Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. Now they have five years of data about Massachusetts and the results are convincing about the wedding industry windfall.  But even more exciting is the data they present from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey that shows the enhanced attractiveness of our state to the “creative class.”

According to the census survey, same-sex couples in the creative class are 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts since marriage equality became legal in 2004. So, we have Cape Cod, the beautiful Berkshires, world class universities and research institutes, historic cities galore, museums for everything, sports teams without parallel, and marriage equality.

Who wouldn’t want to move here? Maybe the religious right who think the sky will fall any day now? But folks who are interested in contributing to an even greater Commonwealth and living where they are part of the “we” in “we the people” are coming. That’s more good news on this Fifth Anniversary.