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Gay-Marriage Opponents Hope Trump's Judicial Appointees Will Overturn The Law


The first legal same-sex marriage in the U.S. took place in Massachusetts 15 years ago this week. Now same-sex marriage is legal across the country, and support for it has grown. But people who fought for the right say the fight isn't over. Gabrielle Emanuel of member station WGBH has that story.

GABRIELLE EMANUEL, BYLINE: When city halls across Massachusetts issued the country's first same-sex marriage licenses, Susan Elves, Jeff Knudsen and Donna McLaughlin were in line to get them.


SUSAN ELVES: You know, for me, it very much means equality.

JEFF KNUDSEN: For Michael and I, it's a political act. We've been together for over 14 years.

DONNA MCLAUGHLIN: We have a 5-year-old and an 18-month-old. The 5-year-old daughter is just really thrilled that we're doing this. And it's something we had never really thought would happen.


DAVID WILSON: Rob, I commit to love you until death do us part.

ROB COMPTON: David, I commit to love you until death do us part.

EMANUEL: Rob Compton and David Wilson were plaintiffs in the landmark lawsuit.


UNIDENTIFIED MINISTER: I hereby pronounce you partners for life, legally married. Amen.


EMANUEL: That same day, there were protests and press conferences.


EVELYN REILLY: This is a terrible idea.

EMANUEL: Evelyn Reilly was with the Massachusetts Family Institute and spearheaded local efforts to ban same-sex marriage.


REILLY: If we do not reverse this through the constitutional amendment, this country is going to be in dire straits in the next generation.

EMANUEL: Massachusetts did not reverse it, but a backlash swept the country. All told, 41 states explicitly limited marriage to between one woman and one man.

MARGARET MARSHALL: I had a sense it would be momentous in Massachusetts.

EMANUEL: Margaret Marshall was chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. She penned the 4-3 ruling.

MARSHALL: I did not have any idea that it would be so momentous nationally and internationally.

EMANUEL: Since Marshall's decision, public opinion has changed dramatically. Fifteen years ago, about 60 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage and 30 percent supported it. Now it's the opposite. More than 60 percent are in favor. Mary Bonauto argued the case in Massachusetts, as well as a 2015 Supreme Court case that guaranteed marriage equality nationwide. Bonauto's been credited with crafting the legal strategy. She says when gay couples tied the knot, America saw...

MARY BONAUTO: The milk didn't curdle in Massachusetts all of a sudden, that this was great for families and great for their children and provided security and stability. That began to change hearts and minds.

EMANUEL: But, Bonauto says, there's a long way to go. She points out that a minority of states have laws protecting LGBTQ individuals from discrimination.

BONAUTO: It's great to be able to marry, and it's not a great thing to feel super vulnerable about what this means for your jobs, your housing or whether you can get health care for your child.

EMANUEL: Rob Compton and David Wilson, the plaintiff couple who wed 15 years ago, say they felt the peaks and valleys of the changing laws and norms. The first decade of marriage was like a honeymoon period. They collectively exhaled. They felt accepted. Life became easier. But in the past few years, Wilson says, things have gotten harder again. He says as an African American male...

WILSON: I often question whether we are being judged because we are an interracial couple or because we're gay.

EMANUEL: And opponents say the tide might be turning against same-sex marriage.

REILLY: I'm a little bit more optimistic in that we are getting better judges now.

EMANUEL: Evelyn Reilly of the Massachusetts Family Institute is now retired and still strongly opposes same-sex marriage. She says she's counting on President Trump's judicial appointees to undo the changes of the past 15 years. Lawyer Mary Bonauto thinks same-sex marriage is here to stay, but she says as a student of history, even the most celebrated victories have to be protected.

For NPR News, I'm Gabrielle Emanuel in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Gabrielle Emanuel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]