For more than twenty years Marilyn Humphries, a local freelance photographer whose images have occasionally graced the pages of this very paper, has stood near the front lines of the lesbian and gay liberation and civil-rights movement. From the Dukakis-era gay foster parenting flap to his signing the state’s gay civil rights law, from the AIDS/HIV epidemic to the lesbian baby boom – and much more – her steady hands and patiently sharp eye for details have produced marvelous photography.
Her works put a face on both activist and ordinary GLBT people, our history and humanity, and her contribution in rendering permanent images of gay-rights progress is priceless and the inspiration of a new book, “Courting Equality,” which zooms in on a big battle – preserving same-sex marriage in the only state where gays can legally wed.
Patricia A. Gozemba and Karen Kahn provide the text for this wonderful 190-page documentary chronicling a juggernaut journey over boulevards and main streets, by-ways and side streets, all along the road to marriage equality. The text is lively storytelling at its best, a thoroughly delightful and short read. A major strength of the book is the authors’ inclusion of historical background, contexts and milestones, detailing a constantly changing cultural and political landscape, all of which helped set the stage for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) landmark Goodridge decision, legalizing gay marriage in the commonwealth and ushering it into the American experience.
“Courting Equality” documents quite convincingly that same-sex, civil-marriage rights resulted partly from a mix of local, regional, and national, if not global, political and legal developments, as well as unrelenting grass-roots advocacy for full marriage and family equality. In Massachusetts, some of those achievements include passage of the 1989 Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Law, a 1993 SJC court ruling in favor of second parent adoptions, and a masterfully strategic blocking, in 2002, of a proposed gay marriage ballot question. Senate presidential leadership and savvy procedural tactics killed that measure then, but did not curtail gay marriage detractors’ zeal to write discrimination into the world’s oldest living Constitution.
Meanwhile, hot off a partial legal victory of Vermont’s civil unions, lawyers at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders filed, on April 11, 2001, a lawsuit that wound its way through state courts, ultimately resulting in the SJC’s 4-3 ruling in Goodridge on Nov. 18, 2003.
That ruling set the commonwealth and nation on a roller coaster ride – political, legal and highly personal – lasting until the first day gay and lesbian couples could legally marry on May 17, 2004.
Readers should fasten their seat belts as the text and photographs help them traverse, like an efficient all-terrain vehicle, the hills and valleys of an exhilarating six months. The whole world watched as Massachusetts’ lawmakers deliberated with passion and reason, the phenomenon of gayness, same-sex love, commitment, and family life – and the pursuit of happiness, with no gay exception to the “vital social institution” of civil marriage.
At this juncture, the focus of “Courting Equality,” in words and pictures. is poignantly clear and sharp. A reader meets the plaintiff couples, their legal counsel, marriage-equality activists and lobbyists, and religious and social conservative detractors.
Readers also meet pro-equality religious leaders, state lawmakers, any number of whom in their own right is a profile in courage. From gays who legally wed, their personal story telling, to legislators’ speaking of their own conversions of heart and mind, the advent and legacy of same-sex marriage, now three years old and more than 8,500 couples strong, proves that opening up civil marriage to same-sex couples is not only for them, but also the commonwealth.
“Courting Equality” is a book for anyone interested in understanding the hopeful dignity and courageous integrity of gays who seek the right to civil marriage and in learning how straight allies, by the thousands, have joined their cause. In reading the book, same-sex marriage detractors may find a useful vehicle to travel well beyond moralistic rhetoric, gross hyperbole, and rigid religious orthodoxy, both doctrine and dogma, that far too often blurs an ability for some to see gay people, the other, as fully human persons. When gays can legally wed here and now, the skies really are much bluer. That reality is at the heart of the “Courting Equality” message.Â â€¢
For gay marriage boosters, to read “Courting Equality” is a literary experience of sheer ecstasy, a brief pause of unbridled joy in the ongoing – and by no means over – struggle to preserve and protect same-sex marriage. It’s a delightful sneak peak over the rainbow.