For months after Jean McGuire wed her longtime lesbian partner in front of City Hall last May 17, she kept a card tucked in her wallet. She saved the note because of what her Irish-Catholic parents had unexpectedly written: their congratulations on the marriage.
These were the same parents who 14 years ago politely told their divorced daughter and her new partner that they were not welcome in their home.
But over time, there were family gatherings and vacations together, and slowly the family knitted itself back together. In fact, for Mother’s Day, McGuire’s parents sent her partner, Barbara Herbert, a card saying what a good mother she has been.
“It hasn’t been easy for them to embrace the reality of our life,” McGuire, 52, said as she sat across the kitchen table from Herbert, 56, in their Cambridge home. “They are genuinely pleased that we have a public acknowledgment of our relationship. That sort of surprised me.”
Settling in, settling down
A year after the tumult of last May, when gays lined up at city halls across Massachusetts to exchange vows and celebrated with the popping of champagne corks, many of the same-sex couples have settled into the patterns of married life.
In all, nearly 6,200 same-sex couples — nearly two-thirds of them lesbian couples — have gotten married.
They collect mementos of that day and the ones that followed: wedding rings, framed photos, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings. They have also checked off “married” on state government forms. They have gotten family memberships to health clubs and museums. And they have filed state taxes together.
Some say marriage has barely changed their lives or their relationships. Others say that May 17 — the day that the nation’s first state-sanctioned gay weddings began — was a tectonic shift that still delivers aftershocks 12 months later.
For some, it was both.
“It’s paradoxical, because at some level, gay marriage was a non-event. Nothing bad happened. And then on another level, it was a gateway, for a different kind of generosity and alliance that we didn’t expect,” Herbert said.
Julie and Hillary Goodridge, the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to gay marriage in Massachusetts, carry copies of their license everywhere they go, in case they have to prove in an emergency that they are legally wed.
When their daughter Annie was born nine years ago, complications put Annie and Julie Goodridge on different floors of the same hospital, and Hillary had no legal right to see either of them.
A month after their wedding, another visit to the same hospital showed how things had changed. When one of Annie’s toys got stuck in a tree, Hillary tried to dislodge it by throwing a broom, and was hit in the face with the handle.
When a nurse at the hospital asked the bleeding Hillary if she was married, she replied yes. When asked if her husband was in the waiting room, Hillary corrected him: “I said, ‘SHE is in the waiting room.”’
“He smiled and said, ‘Of course. Would she like to come in?”’ recalled Hillary, 49. “And then I knew I wouldn’t have to worry.”
Nothing ‘but a wedding’
Robert Small-Jason, 41, and Kevin Clayton, 41, of Boston said little changed in their lives after last May, when they had a small wedding ceremony in Provincetown. Clayton wasn’t sure where to find their wedding license when a visitor asked about it.
That is because they date their real marriage to 2002, when they had about 80 guests at their home, with a band playing on a balcony.
“I wasn’t going to call it anything but a wedding,” Clayton said of their original ceremony. “The only thing different that we didn’t have, that a heterosexual couple would, was a license.”