Category Archives: Massachusetts

GLAD Challenges DOMA

On March 3, 2009, GLAD, with Mary Bonauto acting as lead attorney, opened the first salvo in the battle to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In particular, GLAD is challenging Section 3 of the law, which denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples. Here’s what The Progress Report, from the Center for America Progress, had to say:

 LAWSUIT TO OVERTURN DOMA: During the campaign, Obama promised to repeal DOMA, noting that “federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.” Today, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed the first concerted, multi-plaintiff legal challenge to Section 3 of DOMA. GLAD is representing a group of gay plaintiffs who have been harmed by the federal refusal to recognize their marital rights. Under Section 3, legally married same-sex couples are excluded from any federal law or program that benefits other married individuals. The consequence of Section 3 is that gays and lesbians have been denied spousal protections in Social Security, federal income tax, federal employees’ and retirees’ benefits, and in the issuance of passports. In fact, according to a forthcoming Center for American Progress study by Ben Furnas and Josh Rosenthal, the average same-sex couple “will be denied over $8,000 a year in Social Security survivor benefits upon the death of the higher-earning spouse after retirement.” In Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management — filed in federal District Court in Boston — GLAD is arguing that Section 3 is unconstitutional because it violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection and that it is “an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into marriage law.” “I think one way of looking at it is it’s about change and accepting diversity, and I believe that I’m no different than anybody else,” one plaintiff in the case explained. “I should get the same benefits as any other spouse of a federal employee for 27 years. I think our relationship may look different but it’s ultimately the same.” GLAD believes the suit “may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which would mark the first time the nation’s highest court heard a major DOMA challenge.”

Yes We Can

Last week, America voted for hope, not fear. For peace, not war. For love, not hatred. The election of Barack Obama represents what is best in the American spirit—fairness, equality, respect for hardworking people, a belief in a better tomorrow. It has been a long time coming. As Obama has said again and again over the last 21 months, America is a nation defined by its continued desire to form “a more perfect union.”

Unfortunately, for the LGBT community, voters who went to the polls in record numbers on Tuesday, voted their fears on the issues that matter to us most—respect for our families. We lost votes on marriage equality in three states: California, Florida and Arizona. And in Arkansas, voters banned unmarried couples from serving as foster or adoptive parents. This measure, clearly aimed at gay families, is perhaps the most damaging of this year’s initiatives in that it so blatantly carries the message that gay people are harmful to children.

Continue reading at Beacon Broadside.

Courting Equality video promotes marriage equality

Thanks to our good friends at Two Rivers Circle Productions and Aboriginal Lens, the story of LGBT people winning marriage equality is now available in a 5-minute documentary video. Using the photos from our book, the filmmakers created a video that will warm your heart—and hopefully move the hearts and minds of voters on November 4. California film producer Karen Rudolph has already been giving the video to local activists fighting Proposition 8, the California ballot question that would eliminate the right of same-sex couoples to marry in that state. Please send the video link to your friends, family, and contacts in California, Arizona, and Florida, and encourage them to share it with those who don’t yet understand the importance of this civil rights issue. The photographs of families sharing their love–and fighting for their rights can’t help but move people along. As Ellen DeGeneres explained recently to John McCain, we just want to celebrate our love the same way that everyone else does!

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: Aaron Toleos v Sen. John Kerry

aarontoleosjpg_1_1.jpg    Aaron Toleos is my new hero. On June 7th at the Massachusetts Democratic Convention, Toleos stood up for all of us and confronted Massachusetts Senator John Kerry about his continuing lame position on marriage equality.
    The next day, the Boston Sunday Globe reported the David and Goliath scenario this way:

A delegate was escorted off the convention floor for having a homemade sign, which read, “John Kerry, Anti-Gay Marriage, Anti-Massachusetts.”
Aaron Toleos. codirector of the advocacy group, said he was physically assaulted during the incident and is considering legal options. He said he has the incident on videotape and planned to post it on YouTube.

    Amazingly, some LGBT people and many progressive Democrats actually believe that Kerry supports gay marriage. It seems so improbable that he does not. It seems even more improbable that the senator would show up at the state Democratic convention and still not support us.
    In 2004, the LGBT community in Massachusetts gave Kerry cover to dodge supporting our marriage equality victory—all so he could beat George Bush in the presidential election. We know what happened. Kerry traveled the country and said that he did not support the law in his home state giving same-sex couples the right to marry. And now four years later, Kerry has still not come around to supporting our great civil rights victory. What’s his rationalization now?
    Marriage equality did not swift-boat Kerry, his own lack of courage and principles did.
    What’s amazing now is that Kerry is actually looking for the support of the LGBT community and our allies in his upcoming Senate race and he still has not come out in favor of gay marriage. What is the senator’s problem in supporting equality, dignity, and the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?
    For four years now, our state has been the beacon of hope for gay marriage. We have proven to the country that extending the right of civil marriage to all people improves the quality of life in our state. Same-sex couples can marry and our families and friends can join us in validating our relationships in our communities. Our families are more secure, but there is work to be done. While we have state benefits, we still do not have the all important federal benefits that married couples receive. Kerry should be working on this for us.
    Instead he is examining his conscience—still—about whether we should have the rights of civil marriage.
    Toleos took a stand on Saturday that more of us must take. Will Kerry show up at Pride and have the gall to ask for our support?

    Thanks, Aaron. I know what I have to do.

Patricia A. Gozemba

60 Million and 63 Percent

Pretty big numbers. Pretty huge victories. We are becoming part of “We the people.” 

As Massachusetts celebrates four years of marriage equality, 60 million Americans now live in three states where gay marriages are recognized. California’s high court and New York’s governor made it possible for millions more Americans to opt for marriage–and have their marriages recognized and respected.

On the heels of these hard-fought for victories, the USA Today/Gallup Poll announced on June 3 that 63 percent of Americans from every area of the country believe that same-sex marriage is “strictly a private decision” between two people. The approval ratings are a tribute to the fair-mindedness and love for equality that are inherently American. Here’s the regional breakdown of the statistics: East (71 percent), West (64 percent), Midwest (63 percent) and South (56 percent). More

Our trailblazing in Massachusetts broke barriers and proved to the country that marriage equality for all is good.

 Prof. Mark Rozell of George Mason University pointed to the fatuousness of the “overheated rhetoric, about the consequences of gay marriage in Massachusetts.” He says that the poll results show that people didn’t see our marriages “affect their own lives.” He adds, “Now, most people have let loose a collective yawn about the issue.” 

While the “collective yawn” might be viewed as a good thing, it is in sharp contrast to the excitement that millions of gay men and lesbians feel at having attained another civil right that allows us to protect ourselves and our families.

The “yawn” is also in sharp contrast to the reaction of the far-right group Save California that is encouraging people to call their county clerks and tell them not to issue same-sex marriage licences. Dan Savage reports that they suggest the following on their website:

Ask your county clerk if they were a Nazi officer during WWII and had been ordered to gas the Jews, would they? At the Nuremberg trials, they would have been convicted of murder for following this immoral order.

So in the wild stretch that is called right-wing spinning, county clerks who swear to uphold the California Constitution are being likened to Nazis.

The Massachusetts Family Institute tried the same ploy. They encouraged clerks to resign rather than uphold their oath of office and issue same-sex marriage licenses. In the end, one or two clerks did resign, but the big story was about the courageous clerks who went one step further and refused to deny licenses to out-of-state couples and took the governor and the attorney general to court over forcing them to act in this unconscionable manner.

They lost only because the racist inspired 1913 law directed at inter-racial couples is still on the books in Massachusetts. The law prohibits couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their home states will not recognize their marriages. But now same-sex couples from New York and California can come to Massachusetts and marry. The 1913 law must be wiped off the books. It’s a disgrace to Massachusetts that has led the way in achieving equality for so many.

With the clear vision of 63 per cent of the people in this country there is no more room for bigotry. Soon 60 million will be yawning at the ordinary, yet somehow extraordinary, nature of marriage equality.


Marriage–Again–New Photos


In a recent Bay Windows article, I wrote about Rosanne Schembri and Lisa Berg, a California couple longing to marry. Here are some photos of them that did not make it into the newspaper but tell an important story about who we are and our desires to have our civil rights.



 On September 1, 1979, the Rev. Jeri Ann Harvey, of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Community Church married Rosanne Schembri (l) and Lisa Berg (R).



Rosanne Schembri and Lisa Berg at their wedding in Canada in 2006.

Next, they will marry legally in their home state of California. Stay tuned for the story and the photos!

Marriage – again

Bay Windows contributor
Patricia A. Gozemba

June 2, 2008

California, what great company you are in. Our courts have blazed the path. Massachusetts and California – two down and forty-eight to go. Bi-coastal dignity is not enough. The promise of liberty and equality for all means just that – for all.

We won marriage equality because the Massachusetts court ruled in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that all citizens are guaranteed “equal protection” under the law. Your court went further and ruled that marriage is a “fundamental right.” Mary Bonauto, the victorious attorney in Goodridge, could barely contain her joy with the California decision. In a Boston Globe? article she said, “This is not a little ripple in a pond. This is a wave. This is big. What Massachusetts did was extraordinarily significant. Someone had to be first but having the second state be the largest in the country, with an influential judiciary, makes it quite a powerhouse.” More

Democracy in Action

On Monday, May 20, the Boston Globe published this letter from Courting Equality author Karen Kahn:

CONGRATULATIONS TO California and all its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens who have been recognized as equal citizens by the state’s Supreme Court. The California court affirmed its 1948 Perez decision recognizing that the choice of one’s marriage partner is a fundamental right, regardless of race or, in Thursday’s ruling, gender.

Perhaps Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and an opponent of same-sex marriage, does not understand the workings of democracy (“Mass. activists on both sides ready to help,” Page A1, May 16). Here in Massachusetts, we spent four years fighting over the definition of marriage. Our highest court ruled that marriage discrimination was unconstitutional. Our Legislature, after hearing from thousands of citizens, voted to affirm freedom and liberty for all Massachusetts citizens. And Governor Deval Patrick worked hard to prevent discrimination from being written into our state constitution.

In California, the Legislature has twice voted in favor of same-sex marriage, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to sign those bills without a decision from the court. Last week, he expressed his support for the ruling. But Mineau and his anti-gay allies call the court ruling undemocratic. Really? What I see in Massachusetts and California is that democracy moves inexorably toward equality for all.

Let’s make sure California’s residents understand that writing discrimination into thier state constitution would be an affront to “liberty and justice for all.”

LA Times tells of Massachusetts marriage success

In May 17 article, following the California Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, Elizabeth Mehren of the LA Times reminds readers that after 4 years, Massachusetts has shown the world that same-sex marriage does not bring with it the collapse of civilization. Mehren talked with Karen Kahn, co-author of Courting Equality, and quoted her at length:

  In a way, “Massachusetts has been like the reality TV show for gay marriage,” said Karen Kahn, co-author of “Courting Equality,” a book examining same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

“When we were the only state, we were the ones who were ‘out there.’ We were the target for every kind of criticism, all the threats that this would destroy marriage, families and civilization.”

Instead, Kahn said, “what we have had is four years of marriage equality. Nothing terrible has happened in our state. The Red Sox have won the World Series twice since the law changed. There continue to be little pockets of opposition, but almost none of it is not religious-based. Overall, we are doing just fine here in Massachusetts.”

Kahn, 52, married her co-author and longtime companion, Patricia Gozemba, 67, in September 2005.

To read the entire article, which also tells the story of Chloe Page, featured in the pages of Courting Equality, go to In Massachusetts, a Test Run for Same-Sex Marriage. You can join the discussion there, which has already engaged more than 2000 readers. Let them know that same-sex marriage has been good for Massachusetts, and will only bring joy and happiness to California.

Gay Marriage and the New York Times: Who’s Disgusted?


This Ozzie and Ozzie 50s retro photo of two men thrilled with each other on the cover of the New York Times Magazine (April 28, 2008) caught my attention and made me smile. The new face of marriage equality! Many of the guys in the story remind me of the hip and very cute young men whom Marilyn Humphries captured in her 2007 book on the history of marriage equality in Massachusetts, Courting Equality (Beacon Press). For the Times story, “Young Gay Rites,” photographer Erwin Olaf did a great job of making the guys look as American as apple pie. Unfortunately, the Times used all white guys—a big faux pas and a distortion of the same-sex marriage reality in Massachusetts.

Reading through the article, I wondered, “Where do these young guys get all of the money to be living in such great places and enjoying all of the comforts of life?”  Good sense took over. I chided my Cranky Old Lesbian self and realized that the young gay newlyweds (and newly divorced) in the article are just like all the young heterosexual newlyweds (and newly divorced) couples in popular magazines.  Life appears seamless. This is an image that I am happy to have young gay people see. They deserve the right to the American dream machine fantasies that their peers have. All of us should be equally open to the dream machine as economic reality crashes in.

So, my working class self initially got disgusted with the class privilege the Times portrayed but I did get over it.

Will the LGBT folks who are militantly against marriage equality and disgusted with it get over it so easily? I eagerly await their rants.

How long will it take for the right-wing political opponents of equality for LGBT people such as Bill Bennett, Maggie Gallagher, Brian Camenker, and their ilk to show their disgust?

The disgust of the religious fundamentalists is out there already. Rev. R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and talk radio host, read the Times and is stirring up fear with, “The New Face of Gay Marriage.”

Mohler comments on the article in detail (he seems obsessed by how we live our lives) and he frets about how “normal” some of the couples want to “appear.” I can only imagine a young gay Baptist kid hearing Mohler’s radio show and realizing that there are gays marrying and living in the American dream machine. Hope that the kid’s library gets the New York Times.

Mohler raises the key question that opponents of marriage equality love to dwell on, how gay marriage will affect straight marriage. He, like most political and religious fundamentalists, looks at the issue as a larger cultural one: “If the legalization of same-sex marriage is changing homosexual culture, is it also changing heterosexual marriage?”

Wow. All the demographics about divorce rates in heterosexual marriages point to a need for help. First, gay people led sexually promiscuous lives that made our life style look alluring to straight people—and probably wrecked their marriages. Now we are following their conservative impulse of marrying and they want to claim that we are wrecking their marriages.

Given the national failure rates of heterosexual marriage, I think heterosexual marriage needs help. Keep in mind that the latest statistics from 2005 show Massachusetts as the state with the lowest divorce rate in the US.  A distinction that we have had for a number of years.

The state of Massachusetts granted civil marriage rights to gays beginning on May 17, 2004. Nearly 10,000 LGBT couples have married. Local and vocal opponents of marriage equality in
Massachusetts such as Brian Camenker and Kris Mineau have been unable to come up with one solid example of how marriage equality has damaged the institution of marriage. The reality-TV show of marriage equality has been running in our state for nearly four years now and tells the story.

Communities across the state celebrate gay marriage. When I tell people that I want to maintain a Massachusetts residency because I am married and protected here by the Massachusetts Constitution, folks get it. No one has mentioned that his or her heterosexual marriage has been downgraded in any way.

People disgusted by our equality ought to be spending more time thinking about the promises of liberty and justice. In its own way, the New York Times has prompted millions to do just that with its cover piece on marriage and young gay men.

Let’s hear it for Ozzie and Ozzie. They’re a lot cuter than Ozzie and Harriet and their taste is impeccable. They give a Cranky Old Lesbian great decorating ideas. I’m not disgusted, just a bit economically envious but very happy that in their 20s they have a civil right to marriage in Massachusetts.


Patricia A. Gozemba