Category Archives: about authors

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.”

Courting Equality on GAY USA

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by Pat Gozemba


Karen and I were excited to be on one of our favorite shows this week, GAY USA. You can catch us on the web or on a variety of Cable and Dish Network TV sites. See info below.pat-and-mouse.bmp

Pat Gozemba and Karen Kahn, co-authors and spouses

photo by Bill Bahlman



Hosts Andy Humm and Ann Northrop are terrific and it was a real pleasure speaking with them. Below is the message that they sent out to their list-serv subscribers:


We report this week on how Massachusetts has gotten rid of its last vestige of discrimination against same-sex couples, opening the state to gay and lesbian couples from elsewhere who want to marry there.


Our guests for our last twenty minutes are Pat Gozemba and Karen Kahn, authors of “Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Unions” with photographs by Marilyn Humphries. They will tell us their story of witnessing and writing about the birth of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and how they decided to get married themselves after being partners for 15 years. We will also show you a montage of photos from the book, which document the victory for same-sex marriage in the context of the historic movement for LGBT rights.

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You can read more about “Courting Equality” at


The Gay USA website and podcast are available at GayUSATV

“Gay USA” is seen in Manhattan on MNN on Thursdays at 11 PM on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 84 and simulcast at channel 34/84. It is distributed nationally on the Dish Network (Ch. 9415) through Free Speech TV. Go to for the schedule. The show now also airs on Saturdays at 11 PM on WYBE in Philadelphia.

Online video for Gay USA is available at:

Gay USA is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of “Gay USA” may be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” online by credit card at


Andy and Ann



Free Speech schedule:


Friday, Aug 08




Saturday, Aug 09







Sunday, Aug 10







Monday, Aug 11







Tuesday, Aug 12




Friday, Aug 15




Saturday, Aug 16







Sunday, Aug 17







Monday, Aug 18







Sunday, Aug 24










Thank You, Mary Bonauto and GLAD

Thank You, Mary Bonauto and GLAD for Four Years of Equality!


Four years ago today at a press conference in Boston, on November 18, 2003, Mary Bonauto of Gay Lesbian Advocates&Defenders and the Goodridge plaintiffs taught me an important lesson in American democracy. Their visionary leadership and commitment made me see that marriage equality for LGBT families is an issue of democracy, a fundamental civil right. I had not seen it that way. Marriage was not on my political agenda. I’m a convert now married to Karen Kahn.

If my friend Marilyn Humphries, Bay Windows lead photographer, had not neglected to bring her largest photo flash card in to Boston that day, I might have missed the historic press conference. I got the job of fetching the flash card from Marilyn’s house and schlepping it to the Omni Parker Hotel. I stayed for the press conference. A year and a half later, Karen Kahn and I would begin writing a book featuring Marilyn’s photographs, Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages (Beacon Press, 2007).

Here’s part of what we said in the book about Nov. 18, 2003:

The Marriage Victory Press Conference

            On the walk over to the Omni Parker House Hotel, Bonauto and the plaintiffs had TV, radio, and print media trailing them and jockeying for the best shots and sound bites. The proud smiles on the faces of the plaintiffs told it all. Bonauto began the press conference. “Wow this is a very, very big day; it’s obviously a historic day . . . because finally all families in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will have the opportunity to be equal families under the law.” With her voice ringing with conviction, Bonauto gave pause, “A court finally had the courage to say that this really is an issue about human equality and human dignity, and it’s time that the government treat these people fairly.”

            Continuing her effort to ensure that Massachusetts did not adopt civil unions, Bonauto clearly asserted her understanding of the ruling: “The issue in this case was whether or not it was constitutional to exclude same-sex couples from civil, legal, governmental marriages as well as all the protections that flow from that. That’s what the court ruled on today. It didn’t rule on a parallel system.” Bonauto then insisted that the plaintiffs be allowed to speak.

Protections of Marriage

            Julie Goodridge pointed out that the court affirmed what they had always felt: “We are a couple that is worthy of the protections of marriage, and that after 16 and a half years Hillary and I are finally going to be able to get married and protect our family.”

            Gary Chalmers, with Rich Linnell at his side, told the assembled press, “My partner of 15 years, finally after today, will be my official spouse come June. . . . We’ll finally be able to have health insurance and so many other legal benefits we need to keep our family safe and secure.”

Marriage as a Civil Right

            Poignantly, Wilson and Smith, both African American, noted the important civil rights dimension of the decision. Wilson smiled as he asserted, “It means I’m a full citizen with all the rights of a citizen.” Expanding on that point, Smith insisted, “The struggle for people to be treated equal is a long one, and it continues, and it gives me chills to think about that connection.”

            Towards the end of the press conference, the media questioned Bonauto again about why civil unions would not satisfy her clients. Her concise reply had probably been on her mind since the
Vermont legislature invented civil unions. “We think the word ‘marriage’ is one of the important protections because everybody knows what it means.” A TV reporter then asked her if she would get married and the usually very businesslike Bonauto looked down and then with a broad grin looked up, “You betcha!”

Goodridge anniversary commentary at Beacon Broadside

Take a look at Beacon Broadside, where Karen reflects on the fourth anniversary of the Goodridge decsion, and late summer adventures in Tennessee, Gerogia, and North Carolina (below, a photograph of Karen & Pat with Laurel Scherer and Virginia Balfour, in Asheville, North Carolina). 


As we approach the fourth anniversary of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Supreme Judicial Court decision that granted marriage equality to same-sex couples in Massachusetts, I find myself reflecting on the profound impact of this decision in my life. Before November 18, 2003, I had not considered marriage as anything more than an outdated, sexist institution. With the energy of the spurned outsider, I rejected marriage and all its trappings. I had no expectation that, in my life time, same-sex couples would be allowed to participate in this exclusively heterosexual ritual. Read more.

Marilyn Humphries featured in November Boston Spirit Magazine

If you are in the Boston area, pick up the November/December 2007 copy of Boston Spirit or go to the website to order your free subscription   In this month’s issue, Pat Gozemba has a feature article on Marilyn Humphries’ two-plus decades photographing Boston’s LGBT community. Lots of pictures tracing LGBT activism since the early 1980s.

Courting Equality Rocks Ptown

Pat, Karen, & Denise from Austin 

On July 28, we celebrated marriage equality with Denise, a parent participant in Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE). Denise read Courting Equality in one afternoon, after her neighbor Orlando Del Valle lent her a copy. She was among many lesbian and gay families who gathered for Family Pride Week. Courting Equality drew a large crowd to the Provincetown Library, where state representatives Carl Sciortino and Sarah Peake, along with former Senator Cheryl Jacques, talked about the political struggle to win marriage equality.

Courting Equality photographer and authors honored

The City of Cambridge honored Pat Gozemba, Karen Kahn, and Marilyn Humphries with a special proclamation at their May 7, 2007, meeting. The proclamation notes that Courting Equality includes a photo of the first couple married in Cambridge, Tanya McCloskey and Marcia Kadish, and City Clerk Margaret Drury. The Council congratulated the authors on a “terrific” book.

Marilyn Humphries received a Black Butterfly Award at this year’s Sistah Summit, an annual event held during Pride week where lesbians of color celebrate those who have supported their community. She was honored for her efforts to ensure that images of the LGBT people seen in the press and elsewhere are inclusive of all our communities. Humphries, in recieving the award, told the audience,  that there is no honor more meaningful to her than one that comes from the black LGBT community. “To be called family,” she said, “that is one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had.” For full coverage of the event, see Bay Windows story by Laura Kiritsy.

Recording Equality, Brian Jewell interviews Marilyn Humphries, Bay Windows, 5.17.07

Since the 1980s, photographer Marilyn Humphries has been documenting progressive movements. Her camera has brought Bay Windows readers to the front lines of the fight for LGBT equality from the early days of the AIDS epidemic to the advent of civil marriage rights. The photos of the latter — her award-winning photographs of the struggle for marriage equality in Massachusetts — have been collected in the recently published book Courting Equality from Beacon Press. With a history of the movement written by Patricia A. Gozemba and Karen Kahn to accompany Humphries’s historic photos, the book is a moving and invaluable time capsule. Humphries found some time between the book launch and photo assignments to talk with Bay Windows about sharing her eyes with the world. An excerpt appears below. For the full interview.Q: You must be very busy these days.
A: It’s really nice to have a few moments to just think about things instead of the next task. I feel like ever since November of 2003 I’ve been on the hamster wheel from hell, as so many of us have been. And adding the book on to that was like, how much more can you take?

Q: Covering the Constitutional Conventions must be a real marathon.
A: Yeah, those are pretty grueling. You get there at 7 and they get out at midnight. That’s pretty tough.

Q: How do you get through it?
A: Understanding the importance of what’s happening. And there’s [Bay Windows associate editor] Laura Kiritsy in the background saying, ‘Get up there and get that photo!’

Q: You’ve had a unique view of the marriage fight.
A: It’s an amazing viewpoint. Particularly at the State House. It’s like watching a documentary unfold. Everybody else was on the other side of these roped off areas, singing and jostling for position. It was very intense to watch, and very moving. It’s such a privilege and an honor to be in that position and try to capture it.

Q: Is it hard to cover, when you have a personal stake?
A: Yes, that’s something that’s always been difficult. You try to shoot it like you would anything, getting the visual element that tells the story. I hope I’ve been fairly objective about it, but that’s an elusive thing. In a lot of situations there are some really hard things said. Sometimes directed at me personally, because some of the anti-marriage equality people knew I represented Bay Windows. The closest I came to ever becoming deranged was snapping the guy with the giant sign about sodomy. It’s one of the photos in the book. I was trying to get a picture of him  and he came over and started shoving the sign in my face! I said some things to him I probably shouldn’t have. He was baiting me and I shouldn’t have responded. I think that’s the only time I ever did. You know, you’re exhausted, your nerves are frayed … it’s hard.

Q: What about happier events, like the first marriage licenses? I remember I was at Cambridge City Hall when they had the first registrants for gay marriage licenses, and I was just overwhelmed. I couldn’t imagine having to work, too.
A: That was really hard. First, there was so much going on all over. I got into the chambers and got stuck there. It was too hard to get out. I could hear the crowd outside, and I knew there  was stuff happening all over City Hall. It was such chaos, but it was joyous chaos. When I finally got out, it was unbelievably moving to see all those folks. That was intense and wonderful and I’m so glad I was there.

Q: How did the book come about?
A: I was visiting Pat and Karen, who are dear friends of mine. I was showing some of the photos to them and Evelyn C. White of the San Francisco Chronicle, and she said you have to do a book. I said, I’m not capable of doing that. I don’t have the time, and I don’t know how to do it. And Pat and Karen looked at each other and said, then we’ll do it with you. This never would have happened without them. Trying to make a living as a photographer is so time consuming. Anyway, they led the way. 

Q: Is there another boo coming?
A: I don’t think so! But I am working on a project with the Holter Museum of Art in Montana. They’re doing a show about response to the right wing in general. They asked me to submit a few things to represent the gay and lesbian community. How can you represent that in one or two photos? So the curator suggested I put together a Powerpoint slideshow, which let me use about 400 photos. The curator told me that when she watched it, she wept. It made me realize again what an extraordinary state we live in. So I’m hoping this show will travel around the country.

Q: And hopefully the book will have a ripple effect across the country.
A: That’s what it’s all about for us, that people who have not really looked closely at this issue will look at the book and get accurate information on what went on, and see all those joyous faces. I hope the book will change some people’s perceptions.

Q: How did you get started?
A: In college I majored in history and philosophy. Not very practical, but it instilled a sense of historical perspective. When I moved to Massachusetts, I got involved in some of the early feminist and gay and lesbian efforts. Pat was very involved in those, and she knew how to do photography. She taught me how to use a camera, so we’ve come full circle. My first taste of what it could be like was the protests at Seabrook. I went up there with my little camera and took pictures. And Sojourner — this is full circle again, because Karen would come to edit that paper — published some of them. I thought, ‘Wow, I can take pictures and people will publish them?’ That was all it took. And I love being up close to things out of the ordinary. People are so impassioned, so full of a sense of mission and often in the face of scary stuff. It’s so moving to me, whether it’s an anti-war protest or the trans people lobbying or the fight for marriage equality. I love trying to capture that. Those people are so heroic to me. We’re lucky to have a lot of those people in our community,

Q: And lucky to have someone to record them.
A: It’s a delightful thing to record.

Martina Brendel interviews CE authors for Salem News, 6.5.07

It’s hard to deny someone their happiness.That’s the thinking behind Pat Gozemba and Karen Kahn’s new book “Courting Equality,” which uses the photos of Beverly photographer Marilyn Humphries to tell the history of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The Salem couple will be at Cornerstone Books this Thursday to sign copies.

“The photos really inspired us to write the book,” Kahn said. “We hadn’t been thinking about writing a book about this. When we saw the photos, we realized what an incredible documentation of a historic moment it was.”

Besides the familiar images of activists demonstrating at the Statehouse, the glossy coffee-table book also features dozens of portraits of blushing brides and grooms engaged in all the rites of marriage – from cutting the cake to catching the bouquet to dancing with family and friends.

“I hope that people will see the great joy and security that has become part of the lives of same-sex couples because of the benefit of marriage being granted in Massachusetts,” Gozemba said. “And I hope it will open people’s minds to see the inequities and prejudices that have kept us from this benefit for so many years.”

Gozemba, a retired Salem State College English professor, and Kahn, an editor, have lived together for 15 years. It wasn’t until they began working on “Courting Equality” in March 2005, however, that these Willows residents decided to get married.

“Until we started working on the book, we weren’t convinced that marriage was really important for us,” Gozemba said. “Afterward, we realized how many protections that are really critical to people’s lives are afforded through marriage. Working on the book and doing research convinced us we should get married.”

The couple were married at Cambridge City Hall on Sept. 1, 2005, though they took out their marriage application at Salem City Hall.

Working together on the book was “really fun,” Kahn said. The couple collaborated once before on Gozemba’s 2001 book “Pockets of Hope,” a collection of inspiring stories about community teaching that Kahn edited. This is the first time they have co-authored a book.

“We had a wonderful time writing the book together,” Kahn said. “We really respect each other’s opinions. Pat worked as a professor, I was an editor for many years. It’s easy for us to work with each other.”

They never pictured themselves writing a coffee-table book, but the photos speak for themselves, they said.

“We did it because we feel that the photos are so impressive that even if a person just looks through and reads the photo captions, they will get the message of the book,” Gozemba said. “We felt the photos were that powerful.”

Susan Jacobs recommends Courting Equality in the Jewish Journal

Three local women have collaborated to create a comprehensive book that traces the gay marriage movement in Massachusetts. “Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages” was released on the third anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts.

Written by Salem activists Pat Gozemba and Karen Kahn, with pictures by Beverly-based photojournalist Marilyn Humphries, the work follows the gay struggle for social justice in the Bay State.

The candid photographs by Humphries, whose freelance work has appeared in the New York Times, Bay Windows and the Boston Phoenix, among other publications, form the backbone of the book. The eloquent prose provides context and background. Presented together, the pictures and text paint a passionate portrait of a milestone event that changed the course of history in Massachusetts.

The glossy, large format book aptly captures the steely determination and ultimate jubilation experienced by those most intimately involved in the battle to bring equal civil rights to same-sex couples.

“Courting Equality” focuses primarily on the seven same-sex couples, known as the Goodridge plaintiffs, who got the ball rolling in April 2001, by suing the Department of Public Health for the right to marry. The writers interviewed all the couples, as well as other key players in the battle. Humphries, who spent several years on the front line with her camera, captured the passion and outrage of supporters on both sides of the contentious issue.

While “Courting Equality” has a more limited audience than a pictorial retrospective on the work of Picasso, which your average heterosexual household would probably rather have on the coffee table anyway, that shouldn’t diminish the value of this important book. Gozemba, Kahn and Humphries have created an historically accurate work that should be included in every library.

For those who may not remember, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court granted equal marriage benefits to same-sex couples in a landmark decision November 18, 2003. With the ruling, the Bay State became the only one in the union to recognize and legally sanction the right of homosexuals to marry. City and town officials began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples May 17, 2004.

Kahn and Gozemba personally hold one of the 9,700 same-sex marriage licenses that have been issued in Massachusetts since the law went into effect three years ago. The interfaith couple wed in September 2005 at Cambridge City Hall.

Kahn and Gozemba were not surprised that Massachusetts was the first state to legally sanctify same-sex marriage. “Massachusetts has strong civil rights traditions. It was the first place to abolish slavery,” pointed out Kahn.

“Marriage was not a top priority for us,” admitted the 51-year-old Kahn, who works as communications director for a non-profit health care organization. “But seeing the reaction of the Right Wing, the Catholic Church, and our Mormon governor made me aware that we suffered from an oppression that we weren’t even aware of.”

“Marriage is the primary institution of social order in our country. It’s the way all benefits, such as pensions and social security, flow to people. We must have access to this,” said Gozemba, who is 62.
Gozemba, a former professor of English and Women’s Studies, likens the struggle to the one fought by blacks decades ago. “We do not want to drink from the ‘gay’ water fountain. Separate but equal is not good enough,” she said.

To change the law on a federal level, she believes individual states must be targeted. “African Americans worked state-by-state for integration of the schools. By the time the issue got to federal court, it was already law in many areas. We must follow the same strategy,” Gozemba said.

Gozemba thinks progress is being made. “Ten states currently recognize gay relationships; seven of them offer marriage or civil union by one name or another. But we have a mishmash of recognitions — marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships. It’s uneven and unclear from state to state,” she said.

Kahn and Gozemba point out that concerns that gay marriage might destroy the ‘traditional family unit’ have proven unfounded. “No one’s heterosexual marriage has been damaged as a result of the ruling, and Massachusetts continues to have the lowest divorce rate in the United States,” Gozemba said.