Tuesday 7 April 2015

Around the World in 80 Gays : Part 7 - A Marriage

Last Time : The murders in Boston of 16) Rita Hester and 17) Chanelle Pickett led activists like 18) Nancy Nangeroni to organise vigils which paved the way for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Boston also paved the way in same-sex marriage legislation with a court case headed by 19) Hilary Goodridge and 20) Julie Goodridge.

19) Hilary Goodridge (b.1956) and 20) Julie Goodridge (b.1958) were one of 7 same-sex couples in long-term relationships whose applications for marriage certificates were refused by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in March and April 2001. Julie lived and had studied from Boston University and ran an investment consulting firm. Her family name was Wendrich, and after being in a relationship with Hillary (formerly Hillary Smith) for about 8 years she and Hillary changed their surname to Goodridge after the birth of their daughter.

The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Public Health with the Goodridge’s names a lead plaintiffs (a list of the other plaintiffs can be found in the Wikipedia entry). The court decided against the plaintiffs but GLAD appealed and on 18th November 2003 the appeal went in their favour. The appeal court decided it was unconstitutional for same-sex couples to be denied marriage.

All of the plaintiffs in the case got married on the day same-sex marriage in Massachusetts became legal. Hillary and Julie were married in the headquarters of the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston where Hillary was a director of their funding programme.

2001 was a significant year in the history of same-sex marriage. On 14th January two couples were married in Toronto, Canada. However, as I explained in my article on Toronto last year both marriages were challenged by the court and they were not legally validated retrospectively until 2003.

The first legally unchallenged same-sex marriage took place on 1st April 2001 in the Netherlands. They came about as a result of the world’s first same-sex marriage act that was passed on 21st December 2000.

Inside Amsterdam’s city hall 4 couples arrived for a mass wedding conducted by the mayor, Jon Cohen. Three couples were male and one was female. As the married couples mentioned so far have been female I’ll continue the trend and look at the first lesbian couple to marry with the full authority of the law. Their names are 21) Helene Faasen (b.1967) and 22) Anne-Marie Thus (b.1970).

In true romantic style Helene and Anne-Marie Thus met on a blind date in 1988. They joined the other couples in Amsterdam city hall in front of television and media cameras as well as families and friends. It was a huge media event and the ceremony was broadcast live immediately after the chimes of midnight finished striking the end of 31st March 2001.

Mayor Cohen conducted all 4 marriages ceremonies simultaneously, with all of the couples becoming legally married at exactly the same moment. A special cake was baked for all of them – a large pink cake on which stood the little figures of 3 male groom couples and 1 female bride couple.

At the time of their marriage 21) Helene Thaasen and 22) Anne-Marie Thus were the parents of a baby boy. A year later they also had a daughter. Throughout the 14 years that they have been married Helene and Anne-Marie have avoided too much publicity, always portraying themselves (and other same-sex couples and families) as just an ordinary family. Anne-Marie has been involved in several lgbt family groups over the years and is currently a board member on the Network of LGBT Families Associations. Helene is a notary with her own business partnership in Amsterdam.

With same-sex marriage still being such a political football in many countries it is always good news when an lgbt politician announces his/her intention to marry his/her partner. Most of the countries that permit same-sex marriage have lgbt politicians who have married their partners. At the moment, though, there have been no married lgbt Head of State, but there has been (and still is) an lgbt married Head of Government and, like the other couples mentioned so far, is female.

In 2009 Iceland appointed the openly lesbian MP 23) Jóhanna Sigurðardottir (b.1942) as its Prime Minister. The following year the Icelandic coalition government introduced same-sex marriage. Jóhanna was among the first to marry. Next time I’ll tell you how she was appointed as Prime Minister as a result of West African asylum seekers.

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