Massachusetts: Pioneering On Marriage Equality & Transgender Non-Discrimination, & Not About To Go Back June 23, 2017

In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health brought marriage equality to the Commonwealth.

Twelve years later, on June 26th, 2015, the US Supreme Court did the same for the entire country in Obergefell v. Hodges—a decision we’re celebrating today by taking a look at three LGBT couples, and how Massachusetts’ leadership has positively impacted their ability to live, and love each other, without fearing discrimination.

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George & Quinn

Before, during and after the push for marriage equality, advocates for LGBT non-discrimination were active on many other fronts, including working to ensure transgender Bay Staters are protected. After all, the freedom to marry doesn’t itself protect people from discrimination.

And though Massachusetts has had statewide non-discrimination protections for gay and lesbian Bay Staters since 1989, it was only last year that lawmakers passed these same protections for our transgender friends and neighbors.

The new law, in addition to 2015’s momentous marriage ruling, are what George Hastie and Quinn Kian are thinking about today.

“As a transgender man who loves another man, I celebrate the successful fight for marriage equality across the country,” George says, though he also says it’s important to remember that “rights won can be taken away.”

“As a transgender man who loves another man, I celebrate the successful fight for marriage equality across the country. Unfortunately, rights won can be taken away.” —George Hastie

That’s what will happen if the devastating ballot initiative repealing Massachusetts’ transgender-inclusive non-discrimination protections is passed in 2018.

That’s why, even though we live in a forward-thinking state like Massachusetts, George says, “We cannot rest and must ensure we don’t lose the legal protections that transgender people gained in 2016.”

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David & Rob

In 2001, David Wilson, Rob Compton and six other same-sex couples—with representation from GLAD—sued the state health department after being denied marriage certificates. Two years later, the Massachusetts Supreme Court found in their favor.

“We were proud that our beloved home state was the first state in the nation to move forward on such an important, transformative civil rights issue,” David says. “It took the rest of the nation more than a decade to catch up with Massachusetts.”

“We were proud that our beloved home state was the first state in the nation to move forward on such an important, transformative civil rights issue. It took the rest of the nation more than a decade to catch up with Massachusetts.” —David Wilson, plaintiff, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health

True to their pioneering history, David says he and Rob are “ready to do whatever it takes to ensure that Massachusetts continues to lead—as we’ve always done—by voting for fairness and to uphold our state’s non-discrimination law.”

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Robyn & Peg

On May 17th, 2004, the first same-sex marriages in the United States took place in Massachusetts. Robyn Ochs and Peg Preble were one of the first couples to get married that day.

Photo by Laurie Swope

Robyn knows, though, that the fight for quality didn’t end that day. As a long-time activist in the LGBT community—as a former board member of MassEquality, the editor of Bi Women Quarterly, and prominent campus speaker—she’s well aware of the challenges LGBT people face in Massachusetts and across the country.

“On marriage equality, and so many other issues, Massachusetts has always been a shining example of what it means to lead on civil rights,” she says, noting that it’s a leadership role she was proud to play a part in.

But as she celebrates today’s anniversary of the landmark Obergefell ruling, as well as her own pioneering marriage to Peg, Robyn says she’s also keenly aware that her transgender friends remain at risk due to the 2018 ballot initiative that would repeal Massachusetts’ recently-passed non-discrimination law.

“Between now and November 2018, I will stand alongside transgender people across the state to ensure that Massachusetts does what Massachusetts does best—lead on civil rights and affirm fairness for everyone who calls our Commonwealth home.” —Robyn Ochs, marriage equality pioneer

“Our fight for marriage showed us what’s possible when the people of our state stand together for what we know is right, and we can win this, too.”

As a prominent speaker and activist, Robyn threw herself into the push to pass these protections over the past decade. She’s throwing herself equally emphatically into upholding them at the ballot box in 2018. She says she won’t see these fundamental protections rolled back.

“Between now and November 2018, I will stand alongside transgender people across the state to ensure that Massachusetts does what Massachusetts does best,” she says, “lead on civil rights and affirm fairness for everyone who calls our Commonwealth home.”

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