Advocacy Groups Stress the Normality of Same-Sex Marriage

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - Monday is same-sex marriage day in Massachusetts, barring any last-minute court rulings; and homosexual advocacy groups say they have conducted an informal survey as a "first indication of what may unfold."

The picture that emerges is one of established couples planning "hometown weddings" -- some heading to church with kids and other (supportive) relatives in tow.

"On May 17th, the vast majority of families in this Commonwealth will drop their kids off at school, head to work and maybe catch a Little League game by the time the sun goes down," said Josh Friedes, advocacy director of the Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts.

"The only difference for these families will be that their gay and lesbian neighbors will finally have the same rights and protections as they do -- their neighbors will be able to live their lives more securely."

The Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts and MassEquality sent a non-scientific e-mail survey to more than 30,000 individuals on their e-mail lists. They said they received 493 responses from same-sex couples who are planning to get marriage licenses.

Based on those responses, most from lesbian couples, the advocacy groups put together the following picture:

-- Hometown weddings are the trend, with respondents naming 133 cities and towns as the locations where they will apply for marriage licenses. Boston leads the Monday marriage procession, according to the email responses, followed by Cambridge, Northampton, Somerville, Brookline, Provincetown, and Worcester.

-- Forty-five percent of respondents -- many of whom are planning formal wedding ceremonies -- plan to be married by members of the clergy, while 55 percent of to-be-weds have chosen Justices of the Peace to officiate over their ceremonies.

-- Thirty-eight percent of the survey respondents said they plan to marry the week of May 17; another 13 percent plan to marry by the end of May 2004, while another 46 percent of respondents plan to marry before the end of the year. Only 3 percent indicated plans to marry in 2005 and 2006.

Marriage announcements

In addition to highlighting general trends, the press release puts a "face" on same-sex marriage by naming some of the couples who plan to get married next week:

John Budron, age 51, and Timothy Fitzgerald, age 44, of Milton, have been together for 17 years and have two pre-teen boys who will also attend the church ceremony. Tim's family is traveling from Kentucky to be present at the ceremony, the press release notes.

Jeff Parker (42) and Luiz Duque (33) of South Walpole -- together for eight years -- are planning a ceremony in their church.

On the other hand, the press release said, "Tobin Wirt (49) and Robert King (48) of Sandwich -- together for 18 years -- have chosen to conduct their mid-June ceremony in the comfort of their own home with Justice of the Peace Susan Walker."

"Ms. Marty Flint (50) and Ms. Marty Morrison (58) of Worcester -- together for 3 years -- plan to get married on May 29 in the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church... Ms. Flint's 94-year-old father -- who is supportive of his daughter's marriage -- is unable to make the trip from Illinois, but Ms. Morrison's sister will be attending from Philadelphia."

'Happy and grateful'

Activists call May 17 a "historic" day that marks "a new chapter of equality for gay and lesbian families."

"Couples across the Commonwealth are joyful, happy and grateful that for the first time in U.S. history, we can receive the critical legal rights and protections that come only through marriage," said Marty Rouse, campaign coordinator for MassEquality.

Congratulations from afar

Homosexuals far from Massachusetts are applauding what's about to happen there.

Advocacy groups in California are hosting what they call a "Boston Creme Pie Party" on Monday "to celebrate history as Massachusetts marries same-sex couples."

The press release said community leaders "will applaud the great work done in Massachusetts, wear their Red Sox jerseys and have a slice of Boston creme pie and cranberry juice as history unfolds on the televisions posted around the room."

Community leaders plan to hold a brief press conference "to address the connections between the historic moment in Massachusetts and the current events in San Francisco in working to achieve full equality for LGBT people.""