Category Archives: lgbt family

Crossing Borders, Expanding Equality, and Seeking Justice

 by Patricia A. Gozemba

Equality is a core value in Massachusetts. More than two weeks have passed since our Massachusetts borders fell to the further expansion of equality. When Governor Deval Patrick signed the repeal of the 1913 law that prohibited out-of-state same-sex couples from coming to our state to marry, our state borders became more permeable and we are glad of it. At the July 31, 2008, signing ceremony, Patrick said, “the repeal will confirm a simple truth: that is, in Massachusetts, equal means equal.” More

More Wedded Bliss

Brian Jewell is right when he notes in his Bay Windows article, The bliss off, the Peabody Essex Museum “Wedded Bliss” exhibit doesn’t explicitly address same-sex marriage. Nonetheless, it does an exceptional job of including art that both celebrates and critiques this central social institution. One of my favorites is a piece by Robert Boyd called “Cake Cutter,” in which a large knife is wielded to hack apart bride and groom wedding toppers. With the white bride and groom lying lifeless by the wedding cake, viewers are invited to think about all those who are excluded from the happy white wedding images that are so common in our culture. That made me think about what it meant to have been newly invited to the wedding party. What has changed for our community in Massachusetts–and now in California? Here’s a little of what I said at the museum on June 26:

Whether we are conformists or rebels, we cannot escape the importance of marriage to our society.  Thus it should be no surprise that gay men and lesbians have finally forced open that once tightly closed door. Being denied the social legitimacy and material benefits of marriage hurt—it hurt our self-esteem, it subjected us to psychological and sometimes physical violence, it threatened our relationships to partners and children. Marriage is no small matter.  

In Massachusetts, after four years of same-sex marriage, we can see the results of broadening the definition of marriage. Same-sex couples and their children have far more legitimacy as “families,” accepted by their communities (whether neighbors, school teachers, hospital personnel, car mechanics, or city clerks) in ways that gay and lesbian people in other parts of the country can hardly imagine. As our friend Steven Galante explained so eloquently in our book Courting Equality, “When marriage was made legal, it relieved people of their moral struggle with this particular issue. It allowed them to follow their hearts, their best instincts, and embrace our family.”

That embrace has been very important to LGBT families. But it is also important to remember, that as we move from the margin to the center, we can wrap ourselves in the romanticized commercialism of the white wedding industry or we can unpack the contradictions as many of the artists do in the Wedded Bliss exhibit.

Karen Kahn
July 6, 2008 

The bliss off
Brian Jewell
arts writer
Wednesday Jul 2, 2008

Sandy Skoglund’s faintly ominous
Sandy Skoglund’s faintly ominous
“The Wedding” provoked much discussion.   

While enjoying the beautiful Wedded Bliss exhibit at The Peabody Essex Museum, it is hard not to notice that something is missing. A survey of weddings as artistic inspiration, the exhibit gathers together both art inspired by marriage and objects associated with marriage (such as American wedding dresses and Japanese furoshiki). As the Museum’s Education Director, Peggy Fogelman, explained at a panel discussion last week, the exhibition explores courtship and weddings “across cultures, across centuries, and across lifestyles.”Yet same-sex relationships and marriage equality are all but ignored. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot a few gay couples in a video montage of wedding imagery, and a copy of Courting Equality, a chronicle of the journey to the country’s first same-sex marriages, on a table with other books about marriage. The biggest innovation in marriage since at least The Divorce Act of 1857 is given less attention than a handful of contemporary critiques of heterosexual marriage, and a couple of humorous nods to divorce. It’s a strange omission for an exhibit whose breadth reminds viewers that marriage rituals and traditions are constantly evolving. Never mind the fact that the country’s first same-sex civil marriages took place right here in Massachusetts.On June 26, the Peabody Essex addressed this omission with a screening of the film The Gay Marriage Thing and a panel discussion on same-sex marriage. Read the rest of this article.

Gay Marriage Boon to Massachusetts Economy

Kudos to Lisa van der pool who wrote in the Boston Business Journal on Feb. 28, 2008 about another plus for marriage equality in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, she asserts that equal treatment of all people attracts talented workers. While there has been much anecdotal documentation of gay and lesbian couples coming to Massachusetts because of the protections that marriage offers, it’s noteworthy that a trade journal like BBJ has published this piece.

Note that the contention of an “exodus of families from Massachusetts because of the same-sex marriage law” by Kris Mineau, a marriage equality opponent, has not been supported in any published story.

Here is van der Pool’s story in its entirety (for those who are not subscribers to BBJ):

Gay marriage attracts out-of-state workforce
Boston Business Journal
– by Lisa van der Pool Journal staff

Massachusetts has a dubious reputation for losing talented workers to less pricey markets. But a trend that runs counter to the talent drain has emerged in the form of the state’s controversial same-sex marriage law.
Massachusetts native Jeffrey Webb loved the Los Angeles lifestyle. He had a great job as a law partner in the L.A. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and his life partner, Mark Schuster, was equally happy with his work as chief of general pediatrics and professor at UCLA. “We both had positions that were hard to replicate,” said Webb, 43.

 Even so, Webb and Schuster left the California sunshine in December and moved to Brookline with their twin sons. It wasn’t the promise of enduring a gloomy Massachusetts winter that beckoned them — it was the ability to live in Massachusetts as a legally married couple.

“That was something that was really important to us,” said Webb, who married Schuster in Massachusetts soon after the couple bought a vacation home in Truro in 2004. Webb has since joined the law firm McDermott, Will & Emery LLP as a partner in the trial department, and Schuster is now the chief of general pediatrics and vice chair for health policy research at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Massachusetts has a dubious reputation for losing talented workers to less pricey markets. But a trend that runs counter to the talent drain has emerged in the form of the state’s controversial same-sex marriage law, a powerful lure for same-sex couples who want to live in a place where they can get married, gain legal rights and have access to spousal health benefits. In fact, some observers see the influx of same-sex couples as a boon for the state’s economy.

“Since the marriage law passed, we see a lot more (gay) professionals moving into the Boston area,” said Henry Hoey, a board member of the Greater Boston Business Council, a chamber of commerce for gay professionals. The organization’s membership has increased 5 percent to 1,100 members since last year. “The effects of this law are starting to take hold.”

In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling. The decision sparked an intense effort by same-sex marriage opponents to amend the state Constitution; but that effort died in the Legislature last year. Since 2004, 10,168 same-sex couples have said their “I-Do’s” in Massachusetts. And while same-sex nuptials have tapered off since the initial rush in 2004 when 6,121 couples tied the knot — last year 550 same-sex couples got married in the state — that likely reflects an expected leveling off since the law was passed, according to the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

The number of same-sex couples who have moved here since 2004 is not tracked by any organization. Martha Livingston, founder and CEO of Inclusive Recruitment LLC, a Boston-based staffing firm that places gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender professionals in welcoming workplaces, has noticed an increase in gay and lesbian couples who have moved or are planning to move to the state.

“There’s a woman that I’m working with right now because she came to Massachusetts so her marriage would be recognized,” said Livingston.
Massachusetts’s population could use some fresh faces. From 2003 to 2005, the population fell to 6,429,137 from 6,438,510, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. While the population crept back up to 6,449,755 in 2007, according to census estimates, the population grew a mere 1.5 percent from 2000 to 2006.
Not everyone agrees that same-sex marriage will ultimately prove beneficial to the state’s economy.

“We view same-sex marriage as a radical social experiment and to promote it on behalf of the economy is akin to promoting casinos on behalf of the economy,” said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute in Woburn. “There’s anecdotal evidence that (there has been) an exodus of families from Massachusetts because of the same-sex marriage law. So there’s two sides to the story.”

It’s not only the legal rights afforded by the Massachusetts law, but also the relatively open-minded political climate of the region that is drawing more gay couples. Lisa Forest and her wife, Anne Marie Willer, both had good jobs and owned their own home in the Dallas area. But in 2006 the couple left Texas for Massachusetts and rented an apartment in Quincy. Forest works at Bridgewater State College, where she launched the college’s GLBTA Pride Center. Willer works as a librarian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The couple married in 2006.

“It was a difficult move, but I found the political climate inhospitable,” Forest said of her time in Texas. She and Willer lived there for five years.

“There was a lot of psychological and physical energy that I was investing in just living my day-to-day life, because I had to defend myself against anti-gay sentiment and rhetoric. (But mainly) we were taking too large of financial and legal risks remaining there as strangers, legally,” Forest said.

The state’s same-sex marriage law could provide local businesses with a unique competitive edge, according to Carissa Cunningham, director of public affairs at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Boston.

“Massachusetts has a reputation for fairness both generally and in the specifics that it offers gay and lesbian couples, especially those with children who are concerned about raising their kids in a place that supports their family and protects their legal rights,” said Cunningham. “It makes the state competitive.”

While federal law does not recognize same-sex marriage, the benefits for gay couples who decide to marry on a state level still outweigh the drawbacks, according to Rick Kraft, an attorney who moved from Berkeley, Calif., to Massachusetts with his partner and their daughter in 2004. Benefits include partner health insurance, filing joint state tax returns and automatic inheritance if one spouse dies. One downside to marriage is that in the event of a split, alimony payments are not tax-deductable for same-sex couples, according to Kraft, who focuses his estate planning practice on the legal needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

 “There are hundreds of automatic rights that come to couples when they’re married,” said Kraft, 46.

 Chris Ott, 37, and his partner, David Danaher, 40, decided to leave Wisconsin after the state passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Ott moved to Cambridge after he sold his home in Madison. Danaher, a professor of Slavic languages at the University of Wisconsin, plans to remain until he finds a post in Boston.

The two haven’t married in Massachusetts yet.

“The passage of that amendment meant that there were going to continue to be legal and financial barriers and hardships which we didn’t want to contend with, especially later in life,” said Ott, communications director at the ACLU’s Boston office. “We wanted to live somewhere where these issues had already been settled.”
Lisa van der Pool can be reached at

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.

Gay Marriage, Lexington High, and Mass Resistance

“Gay.” “Lesbian.” “Same-sex marriage.” Words you’re not supposed to hear uttered in the Lexington Public Schools that is according to Brian Camenker and his pack at Mass Resistance. But Mass Resistance is not having its way.

PFLAG gave the first of over 240 copies of Courting Equality slated to go to Massachusetts Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs)to the GSA at Lexington High School.

Carla Yengo-Kahn, a sophomore, a Lexington High School accepted on behalf of her school’s GSA. In accepting the book Carla said, “It seems appropriate that we should get the first book going to GSAs. We are from Lexington, the birthplace of the American Revolution that was fought for the very principles of freedom central to our democracy, and appropriately, our educational system.”

She added that the Lexington curriculum includes, all people, all who should be part of “we the people.”

Mass Resistance continues to threaten open, safe, and welcoming school communities that respect all families by including them in the curriculum–especially when they include anything relating to the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community. With the David Parker case centering around his and Brian Camenker’s objection to the use of King and King, Lexington has become another battleground.

Chuck Colbert writes this week on the PFLAG meeting and the presentation of Courting Equality and the challenges to democratic education.

R.I. Fails to Advance Marriage Equality

This legislative session, R.I. failed to emerge as one of the New England states leading the nation to marriage equality. In the final hours, the governor vetoed domestic partnership benefits for state employees. According to Jenn Steinfeld, Executive Director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), the legislature also failed to move ahead several other bills advancing LGBT family equality. EDGE Boston reports:

The Rhode Island General Assembly failed to show their support for Rhode Island same-sex couples and their families by allowing the majority of the MERI platform of domestic partner protections to die without a vote.“We are particularly disappointed in the lack of leadership demonstrated by our elected officials in a year where every other New England state has taken great strides to expand the protections available to same-sex couples and their families,” emphasized Steinfeld.

MERI proposed seven bills proposing protections for same sex couples, in addition to bill S-619. These bills referred to testimony rights, family medical leave, funeral planning, nursing home visitation, ability to sue in a case of wrongful death, and two same-sex marriage bills.

Read more of Tanya Rogers story at EDGE Boston.

Huffington Post mentions Courting Equality

In her new column on the Huffington Post, lesbian mom Sara Whitman writes:

“My son Jake keeps flipping through Courting Equality, a book documenting the events leading to May 17th, 2004 when gay marriage finally became legal in Massachusetts. At first I thought it was because he knew some of the people pictured- now I realize he’s searching out faces that look like his family.

I’m not much better. I keep re-reading Confessions of the Other Mother, by Harlyn Aizley, a book of essays about the experiences of the non-birth mother in lesbian relationships. We’re both looking for the same thing. Our faces, our stories.

Where are my people?” Read more.