“Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages”– Going to the Chapel

Gozemba, Patricia A. and Karen Kahn. “Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages”, Beacon Press, 2007.

“Going to the Chapel”

Amos Lassen

May 17, 2004 is an important date for us. On that day at midnight close to 10.000 people came together in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the lawn of the City Hall. They were waiting for history to be made. When the building opened, the first legal same-sex marriage licenses in the United States were issued and Susan Shepherd and Marcia Hams, who had been together for 27 years, were not officially granted the right to marry. From that day forward, thousands of gay and lesbian couples from across the state followed the lead. Meanwhile, other couples in other places are fighting for the same right.

“Courting Equality” follows the experience with wonderful text by Patricia A. Gozemba and Karen Kahn and extraordinary photographs (more than 100 in all). We are given a front row center seat to see the battle for same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. There entire story is here—the early efforts of activists and the celebrations that followed the decision and the protests following the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in the case of “Goodridge vs. The Department of Public Health. What a joyous book this is.

The photographs illustrate the text beautifully and further demonstrate the dignity of the issue. The faces in the photographs are elated and proud and exemplify the importance of everything that went on in front of and behind the scenes. Some of the photographs are so touching that it is difficult to look at then with dry eyes. Others make you smile and grin with pride. They represent what the struggle for equality is all about and what it looks like. The text writers have documented an important part of American history and show the efforts to end discrimination and we read and see how our  own legislators and fellow citizens got to know us and our families and helped us gain the justice we so deserve.

Here is testimony to the power of commitment. The stories of the people involved are beautifully related and we see humanity at its finest hour. What makes this book important is that it is not only a chronicle the events that led up to Massachusetts allowing same-sex marriage but it shows how political support grew as we witnessed the reality of the demolition of prejudices against us. Most of all, I feel, it reinforces our worth and that we do, indeed, gain equal treatment under the laws of our country. The look at the way social change occurs is beautifully expressed in this beautiful coffee-table sized book. It is an album of our lives and a picture of freedom.

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