An Act of Civil Obedience: 10 Years of Marriage Equality in MA


This story comes to us from Keshet, which works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in Jewish life. This post originally appeared on Keshet’s blog on MyJewishLearning.

Idit Klein is the Executive Director of Keshet, writing in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of legal same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

Ten years ago on May 17th I stood in the sea of thousands on the steps of Cambridge City Hall in Massachusetts as the first same-sex couples were wed just after midnight.

On my left a journalist from Japan happily snapped photos; on my right, a young gay male couple couldn’t stop kissing. I felt elated, proud of this state and honored to have played a small role in securing this civil liberty.

In the weeks that followed, many well-meaning straight acquaintances would ask me, “So are you planning on getting married?” It was sweet but also a bit irritating. (Gay) marriage had been so politicized that people I hardly knew felt perfectly comfortable asking me such a personal question. A lesbian friend of mine groused, “When did the freedom to marry become the pressure to marry?”

After I got engaged several years later, all my married friends told me that my wedding would be a wondrous blur with few concrete memories remaining. And, of course, they were right on the whole. I remember seeing my soon-to-be wife walk into the room where we would sign our ketubah after we hadn’t seen one another in 36 hours.

I remember taking a deep breath before walking down the aisle together. I remember the impromptu d’var Torah my secular Israeli father gave when he toasted us.

But what I remember most vividly is the moment at the end of our wedding ceremony when Rabbi Sharon Cohen-Anisfeld, one of the two rabbis officiating, said, “I’ve said this many times before as an act of civil disobedience. But today, it gives me great joy to say this as an act of civil obedience: that according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I pronounce you married.”

More than two years later, I still feel a quiet thrill when I remember that moment.

I was an activist for marriage equality during the struggle to preserve same-sex marriage rights in Massachusetts. I spent hours in conversation with various Massachusetts rabbis and other Jewish community leaders urging them to take a public stand for equality. I believe deeply in the justice of this fight.

Yet the day of my wedding, our shared triumph here in Massachusetts took on new meaning for me. I take great comfort in knowing that here in Massachusetts, and in 17 states plus the District of Columbia, future generations of LGBT people will never view their marriages as expressions of civil disobedience. May the rest of this country and nations around the world soon recognize the justice of this cause.

Getting ready for Pride Month? Check out Keshet's Pride page to list your community's event or find one near you!

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.