Massachusetts celebrated 20 Years of Marriage Equality on May 17, thanks to the landmark decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. This decision preceded the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling by 11 years, with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

In 2004, at 12:01 am, the city of Cambridge was the first in the nation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and at 9:15 am, the first couple was married.

Cambridge takes pride in being the first, and over the course of three days, the Office of Mayor Denise Simmons, the first African American lesbian mayor in the country in 2008, and the City hosted several events with guest speakers like LGBTQ+ ally Congresswoman Ayanna Presley.

“It is an honor to call the Commonwealth of Massachusetts my home because of groundbreaking, humanity-centered, and justice-actualizing decisions like this one” to be the first City Hall to issue licenses to same-sex couples, Presley told the audience in the Cambridge City Hall chamber. “I often use Cambridge as a way to get my colleagues to do things.”

Also, at the events were guest speakers former M.A. State Representative Byron Rushing, who played a critical role in legalizing same-sex marriage, and Marcia Hams and Susan Shepard, who were the first couple to receive a same-sex marriage license in Cambridge on May 17, 2004.

“I want to give a big shout-out to all the lawyers, organizations, and activists, particularly the plaintiff couples who brought the case of marriage equality to our courts in Massachusetts,” Hams told the audience at City Hall. “I especially want to thank Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of Massachusetts Supreme Court, who ruled in our favor for equality and liberty for us all, including marriage.”

Since 2004, I’ve officiated over 250 LGBTQ+ couples, including Mayor Denise Simmons’s nuptials. When interviewed for this 20th anniversary, I was asked to show photos. I had to sort them into three piles as I’ve done with heterosexual couples, highlighting we are like everyone else: deceased, divorced, and still together.

Looking back at advances since 2004, such as hate crime laws, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA, the legalization of marriage equality, same-sex adoption, and anti-homophobic bullying becoming a national concern, among a few, the LGBTQ+ community has come a long way since the first Pride marches.

When you reside at the intersections of multiple identities, as I do, the 20th anniversary of Marriage Equality in Massachusetts is also the 70th anniversary of the historic U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education. This ruling upended this country’s separate but equal doctrine, adopted in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896.

However, victory comes with backlash.

On this year’s anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, African American and Latinx American students continue to attend not only segregated schools - whether here in Boston or across the nation. Also, they overwhelmingly attend high-poverty urban ones with metal detectors. Sadly, not only has policing while schooling doubled since 2001 to the present day, but so has the school-to-prison pipeline.

As for us, LGBTQ+ Americans, bigotry works in this political climate. Anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the U.S. has taken a hard-right political turn since Trump. And with a Trumped-up Supreme Court, of which five are pro-lifers, the uber-conservatives have eroded decades-long civil rights gains and the Constitutional mandate of separation between church and state. With Roe v Wade overturned in 2022, many of us are worried about what will happen to the goals of reproductive justice, marriage equality, our right to same-gender intimacy, and the fight to combat hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation bills. The majority of them target our transgender population- to date, 552 bills in 42 states. These bills ban trans people from bathrooms, pronouns, sports, gender-affirming surgery, and drag queen story hours, to name a few. Restricting transgender rights works for Trump’s evangelical base, hoping it’ll help the GOP in this coming presidential election. HRC has declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans.

Marriage Equality celebrations throughout Massachusetts were joyous and worrisome. The joy of twenty years is an important milestone. However, many wonder if same-sex marriage will still exist twenty years from now.

“We must continue to fight,” Rushing told his audience at Kendall Center Public Lobby in Cambridge. “It might appear that we cannot win in this polarized climate, but we can, and we must. I imagine a world in twenty years where gay marriage is incredibly ordinary.”

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board

member and Columnist, The Reverend

Irene Monroe is an ordained minister,

motivational speaker and she speaks for

a sector of society that is frequently

invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly

Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on

WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio

and a weekly Friday segment “The Take”

on New England Channel NEWS (NECN).

She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a

syndicated religion columnist. Her

columns appear in cities across the

country and in the U.K, and Canada. Also

she writes a column in the Boston home

LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows and

Cambridge Chronicle. A native of

Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Monroe graduated

from Wellesley College and Union

Theological Seminary at Columbia

University, and served as a pastor at an

African-American church in New Jersey

before coming to Harvard Divinity School

to do her doctorate. She has received the

Harvard University Certificate of

Distinction in Teaching several times

while being the head teaching fellow of

the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister

in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is

the author of the best seller, THE GOOD

BOOK. She appears in the film For the

Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in the

Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an

Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s

coming out story is profiled in “CRISIS:

40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social,

and Religious Pain and Trauma of

Growing up Gay in America" and in

"Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston

Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50

Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled

twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living

Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for

her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the

Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's

research library on the history of women

in America. Her website is

irenemonroe.com. Contact the Rev.

Monroe and BC.