Monday, May 20, 2024

Remembering sometimes love wins

A friend here on Martha's Vineyard sent along a reminiscence published in a local newspaper of a proud Massachusetts anniversary. In May 2004, after a tortuous legal process featuring blocking efforts by state pols and then-Governor Mitt Romney, the first same sex couples in the country were able to celebrate state recognized weddings. 

Vineyard resident Mary Breslauer, who handled communications for the legal team seeking to win LGBT marriage, offers a charming reminiscence.

Martha’s Vineyard enjoys a very prominent tie to these first marriages: the author of that historic 2003 decision was Margaret H. Marshall, then the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the first woman to lead the court. At the time, she was an Island regular, often in residence at home in West Tisbury with her late husband, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis.

In fact, as anxious lawyers, plaintiffs, politicians and the public at large were waiting for the court’s decision, everyone had a theory of when the ruling would drop. My personal favorite was the clarion call that went out because Justice Marshall was spotted on the ferry returning one Tuesday morning. Clearly, the decision would be released that day or the next. Nope. Not happening.

Justice Marshall has said she wrote about 300 opinions during her 14 years on the bench, many of them drafted on the Island. But her legacy is cemented in her four-to-three majority opinion, which made it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the rights and privileges associated with marriage.

It would take a dozen more years, filled with countless lawsuits, ballot questions and statehouse battles before the United States Supreme Court would take up the case, ruling in a five-to-four decision to grant federal access to marriage across the country to loving, same-sex couples.

Breslauer recalls being questioned by reporters about the issue that captured much attention: what did Hillary and Julie Goodridge wear for the novel ceremony? Her entire account is charming.

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