The Nine-Year Anniversary of Gay Marriage in Massachusetts

“The arc of the moral compass is long, but it bends toward justice” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nine years ago we arrived at Rob and Dave’s home to film their getting ready for The Big Day. This was more than just any big day, though, as Rob and Dave were one of the seven plaintiff couples to win the right in Massachusetts for ALL couples to marry.

We met Dave Wilson and Rob Compton at a Gay Wedding Expo, co-sponsored by The Lenox Hotel and Bloomingdales. Spirits were high that day as vendors and couples alike were gearing up for the Supreme Judicial Court to rule on Equal Marriage in just a few days. Attorney Mary Bonauto had brilliantly argued the case for the seven couples, and as the ruling came down, with the decision written by Justice Margaret Mitchell, we all got ready for a big celebration.

A few days later we got a call from Rob and Dave, asking about our availability to film their wedding the coming Monday – May 17, 2004, the first day couples of all sexual orientation were able to marry in America.

We were proud that Massachusetts led the way with its historic decision.

We are now proud of all the 12 states that have realized that all people deserve the rights and responsibilities of marriage – should that be their choice.

On the morning of May 17, 2004, we arrived at the couple’s home around 7 am to chat and interview parents, children, in laws, and grandchildren.

The couple was being interviewed by one of the press, and Rob and Dave spoke emotionally and eloquently about their joy in finally, after being partners for many years, being able to marry.

From the couple’s house, we traveled to City Hall, where Mayor Menino welcomed us all to a private reception for the couple and family. Following the reception, we all descended to The Clerk’s Office in the basement of City Hall, so that Rob and Dave could sign their marriage license. There we were all greeted by a throng of news media anxious to document this historic day.

From City Hall we walked across the Plaza where the couple was greeted by thousands of well-wishers, to the courthouse, where Rob and Dave requested a 3-day waiver so they could be wed on the same day as they received their license. Waiver granted, we all piled into our respective cars to arrive at The Arlington Street Church, where members of the Gay Men’s Chorus sang as Rob and Dave walked down the aisle together, hand in hand.

The Reverend Kim Crawford Harvie officiated, reading the historic words from Justice Margaret Mitchell’s decision that gave all couples the right to marry. After the couple exchanged tear-filled vows, Reverend Harvie pronounced them “legally married in the state of Massachusetts”.

I will always remember the roar of excitement that accompanied those words as the couple shared their first kiss as husband and husband before recessing down the aisle, pausing for hugs and well-wishes from those in the church. It was especially sweet to see Dave’s 90 year old dad, and Rob’s mom hugging the couple as they recessed.

Here is a clip from Rob and Dave’s wedding film:

In the following years, there were efforts to overturn equal marriage, and I found myself following the trajectory of the story in the Statehouse and among friends until Equal Marriage was firmly established as the law in Massachusetts. As a result of the access I had to the political events around the issue, I found myself compelled to tell the story in a short film I made called “Legal at Last”.

Here then, is the story: