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May 17: Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts

Lawrence Bush
May 17, 2010
betsy & gailGail and Betsy Leondar-Wright were among more than a thousand same-sex couples who lined up at Boston municipal buildings on this date in 2004 to apply for marriage licenses. Their marriages were made possible by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which had ruled in November, 2003 that it violated the state constitution for the government to license only heterosexual marriages. Massachusetts thus became the sixth jurisdiction in the world that permitted same-sex marriage (the others were the Netherlands, Belgium, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec). Gail was the head of a firm that promotes progressive books, while Betsy was communications director for United for a Fair Economy, and the two women gave many media interviews in the days leading up to May 17th. They had met in 1989 at Achyot Or (“Sisters of Light”), a Jewish feminist retreat. Currently, about four percent of the marriages in the state are between people of the same sex. Federal law, however, still denies them recognition. “I’m glowing from the inside. Happy is an understatement.” —Marcia Kadish, 56, who married Tanya McCloskey, 52, to become the nation’s first legal same-sex marriage, May 17, 2004.

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.