Happy November 18th! Today is the anniversary of the historic 2003 ruling that made Massachusetts the first U.S. state to allow same-sex couples to marry. It also marks the 2003 repeal of the U.K.’s anti-LGBTQ Section 28 law. Additionally, it’s the “Massaversary” of when my spouse and I legally wed (though we celebrate our true anniversary in April).?
Although same-sex couples in Massachusetts could not marry until May 17, 2004, state Chief Justice Margaret Marshall had issued her groundbreaking ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health six months earlier, on November 18, 2003. My spouse Helen and I didn’t intend to have our wedding on this historic date, however. We had been living in New York but were moving to Massachusetts, driven by a new job offer that Helen had just gotten. Her new Massachusetts employer covered health insurance for employees’ spouses of any gender, but had stopped covering it for unmarried same-sex partners after marriage became legal for them (a short-sighted move, but that’s a whole other discussion). We therefore planned our wedding in about two weeks, since I was staying home with our son at the time and needed health insurance through her employer. We only realized the coincidence of the date when our justice of the peace mentioned it.
But yes, we were one of the many couples to use the quote from Marshall’s decision as part of our ceremony. We still view our original anniversary, in the spring, as our “real” one, with this being simply the occasion that the state caught up with what we’d known for 10 years. Still, we try to mark the day as a milestone (though not the beginning) of our lives together.
Over in the U.K., November 18, 2003, also marked the repeal of the Section 28 law that had since May 1988 forbidden “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” It had been the fear-driven response of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party to the 1980s AIDS crisis.
Additionally, this week marks Trans Awareness Week, a time to both celebrate trans identities and (for us cisgender folks) learn more about how to honor and support them.
Even if it’s not your anniversary today, then, take these other occasions in queer history as a reason to celebrate (and do so again on May 17). We could all use an excuse to do so in a year like this. (And to eat cake—because if you know anything about my household, you know there will be cake.)