President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage on May 9 to acclaim from local activists. Same-sex marriage in the U.S. began in Massachusetts in 2004 thanks to a lawsuit, Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health, named for a Jamaica Plain couple and include four other JP residents as plaintiffs.
“I was a bit surprised that [Obama] took the bull by the horns,” said state Rep. Liz Malia, a JP resident who is lesbian. “I’m really glad that he did. It’s a big relief.”
There are still “miles to go and mountains to climb” on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, Malia said. But same-sex marriage support by the president of the United States shows that “we’re not always dealing with our issues as a third rail in politics,” she added.
Malia said she was especially struck by Obama’s comment that his young daughters see no issues with same-sex marriage and “the fact that, for the younger generation, this is not an issue.”
“That makes me very hopeful,” she said. “It’s a signal to people [that] it’s time to move ahead.”
Gunner Scott, executive director of the JP-based Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, noted that Obama is “the only sitting U.S. president to make a significant number of positive policy changes for LGBT people.”
He noted that same-sex marriage is crucial to gay and lesbian rights, but also to transgendered people, some of whom identify as bisexual and straight.
“By taking gender out of the equation of who can marry who, like what happened eight years ago in Massachusetts, this has made things easier for transgender people to also marry the person we love and care about,” Scott said.
The plaintiffs in the Goodridge case who are still in JP—Julie Goodridge, Edward Balmelli and Michael Horgan—did not respond to Gazette requests for comment.
But Malia has strong memories of their 2003 win in that lawsuit and the political storm that followed, leading to the first same-sex marriages the following year.
“What I remember most vividly is the sense of joy,” Malia said, as well as “camaraderie and support” from straight allies in the legislature.
“It was a tremendous victory for human rights,” she said. “You don’t get a chance to do that very often in this business.”