Just About Married

Massachusetts stands at the edge of history this month. Gays and lesbians are going to start getting married on May 17. That’s something they’ve never been able to do with full legal sanction in the United States.

No one knows how long same-sex couples will continue to have the right to marry here. Lawmakers have already passed an amendment that will ban gay marriages in Massachusetts if it’s approved by the voters in 2006.

Whatever happens, Goodridge v. the Department of Public Health, the lawsuit brought before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (SJC) that opened the door for same-sex marriage, may in time take its place beside Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade as a legal case that transcends law and becomes shorthand for a movement.

Here, in their own words, are the people at the heart of this case: the couple whose name appears on the suit; the lawyer who won it; the pastor whose family-values organization fiercely opposed the ruling; the state senator whose tearful speech supporting gay marriage may have imperiled her career; and the state representative who unsuccessfully introduced a popular amendment against it.

The Couple

Hillary and Julie Goodridge, 48 and 46, make up one of seven same-sex couples who sued for the right to marry. They live in Jamaica Plain with their daughter, Annie.

Julie: I started thinking I was a lesbian when I was 21. I was in college and my roommate came out and told me she was a lesbian. I was horrified. I don’t know why, but it was devastating to me. I would get crushes on girls in high school, but I also had crushes on boys. What do you know when you’re 16 years old?

I spent a lot of time thinking about what flipped me out so much about it, and I came to realize that I was a lesbian, and that was the problem. I realized I had a crush on her: She was two years older than me; we had been friends for a long time; she was really cool; she had her own cookware; she knew how to make dinners; she always knew lots of cool music. She was just a person of the world in a way that I was not at all.

Hillary: In my 20s, I went through a summer, like a lot of women do, of being a bridesmaid pretty much the whole summer. It was really hard to get through because the people getting married were getting all this attention and all these accolades, and I knew I wasn’t going to get any of it. The way I dealt with it was to vow that I would catch the bouquet at every wedding as my own little theatrical way of coping. There was almost blood spilled in some cases. It became quite psychotic.

Julie and I met in November of 1985 at a seminar at Harvard. A friend introduced us. Later, we worked on a few conferences together. Julie kept asking me out and I kept saying no. I thought she would be too much work for me. Finally, in June of 1987, I said yes. I realized relationships are work, and she was going to demand more of me than just about anyone I’d ever known. I was 31, so I was ready to grow up.

Julie: There was a long time when I was in my 20s when I didn’t want to have a family and it didn’t bother me so much being a lesbian. But then I felt a change. We were watching TV one night, and Hillary said, “Have you ever thought of having kids?” And I said, “We can’t have kids. We’re lesbians.” Then our good friends had a child, and I just fell in love with this child. I was like, “This is it. I’ve got to do this. It’s got to be done.”

Hillary: Julie gave birth to Annie. Her dad is a friend of ours. We did it at home and it worked. He came over and handed me a jar of sperm and I brought it into the room. It was really easy. There were no doctors involved.

Julie: We had a commitment ceremony in the backyard where we exchanged rings and read poems to each other right before Annie was born. We chose a common last name. For me that was as close to marriage as we were going to get.

We’ve been together for 17 years. We considered ourselves married, but then Hillary and Annie were listening to Beatles tunes about love and Hillary said,”Who do you know who love each other?” Annie started listing all these people, but she didn’t list us. She said, “If you loved each other, you’d be married.” It was kind of true.

Hillary: When Annie was born, things were not going well. She inhaled some fluid; she was in respiratory distress. They whipped her into neonatal intensive care, and I went with her. After a while, I realized Julie had no way of knowing that Annie was okay. So I went to see her in post-op. I told the nurse at the door that I was Julie’s partner, but she said only immediate family was allowed. So I went back to intensive care and told the nurse I was Annie Goodridge’s mother. She said, “No, you’re not. Her mother is downstairs in recovery. Who are you?” I burst into tears and I begged them to find the nurse who was in the delivery room. She identified me and I was able to go in and be with Annie. I decided later to try again with Julie. There was a different nurse that time. I told her I was Julie’s sister and she said to go right in. Every gay and lesbian couple I know has a story like that.

Julie: When you get married, you are embraced by the world as a family. We’re not roommates. We have a loving relationship and a family. We picked the name Goodridge. It was the maiden name of Hillary’s grandmother. Annie is a part of that family now. I am a part of that family now. Damn it, we deserve that recognition.