JP celebrates 5 years of marriage equality here, while nation follows

Photo by Laurie Swope
Jamaica Plain residents Peg Preble and Robyn Ochs say their vows on the first day same-sex marriage was allowed in Massachusetts, May 17, 2004.

May 17 will mark the fifth anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts. And what an amazing five years it has been. An estimated 12,000 same-sex couples have married here since May 17, 2004, and, until very recently, Massachusetts was the only US state that allowed same-sex couples to marry.

Over the past two years, steps were taken that have solidified marriage equality in Massachusetts: On June 18, 2007, the legislature put to rest, by a vote of 151 to 45, a proposed amendment that would have defined marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, and in July 2008 the legislature passed by an even larger margin—and Gov. Deval Patrick signed—legislation repealing the “1913 law” that had prohibited out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts.

The past several weeks have changed the New England landscape. Last week, Maine became the fifth state to grant ?the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, and the New Hampshire legislature passed a bill granting the? same freedom. This bill is awaiting the governor’s response. If the governor signs, or at least doesn’t veto the bill by May 12, it will become law.

Recent months have seen changes in other parts of the country, too. Connecticut joined Massachusetts on Nov. 12, 2008, and in April, the Iowa Supreme Court and the Vermont legislature brought the total of marriage equality states to four. New York is currently considering marriage equality legislation, and New Jer-sey may soon follow suit. Washington, DC, voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed

A 2008 California Supreme Court decision allowed 10,000 same-sex couples to marry over a six-month pe-riod, until a ballot initiative that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry passed 52-48 percent. Same-sex couples are currently awaiting the results of a court challenge, due on or before June 3. If the ban is upheld, there will certainly be another ballot initiative in 2010 or 2012 to reinstate marriage equality in California.

Internationally, Sweden and Norway both passed marriage equality legislation in 2009, bringing to seven the number of countries with full marriage equality. The other five countries are Belgium, Canada, the Neth-erlands, South Africa and Spain.

And the sky hasn’t fallen. And life goes on.

As a woman who is married to another woman, I am thankful to live in Massachusetts, and I am even more fortunate to live in Jamaica Plain. In my neighborhood, one’s sexual orientation is No Big Deal. Walking through my neighborhood yesterday, I saw children of same-sex and mixed-sex couples playing together in the beautiful spring sunshine as their parents looked on chatting amiably about gardening and their summer plans.

Thank you, Massachusetts. MassEquality is celebrating the fifth anniversary of marriage equality with a picnic right here in Jamaica Plain on May 17. [See Happenings]. Everyone is invited to join in the festivi-ties.

Robyn Ochs
Jamaica Plain

The writer and her wife, Peg Preble, were married on May 17, 2004.

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