This month marks 44 years since the Stonewall riots erupted on New York’s Christopher Street in the wake of a police raid on a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. A year later, America’s first Pride March stretched from Christopher Street to Central Park.
That first march in 1970 has grown into Pride Month, which this year celebrates a significant legislative shift in favor of same sex marriage; five states have amended their marriage laws since the fall elections, bringing the number to 11 plus the District of Columbia. For senior gay couples who’ve tied the knot after waiting for decades, it’s a very special year. The right to legally marry makes their futures more secure financially and gives an important measure of equality in areas that younger gay couples don’t consider – including the right to room together in assisted living facilities.
And so, in honor of Pride Month, we’ve gathered the stories of seven gay couples who were among the very first to wed in their states.
Jim Scales and Bill Tasker
Same sex marriage became legal in Maryland on New Year’s Day 2013. At City Hall, the first couple to be married was Jim Scales and Bill Tasker, who had been together for 35 years. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, for whom Scales serves as an aide, performed the wedding ceremony. “It just means a lot to be able to spend the rest of our lives together, and legally,” Scales told the Baltimore Sun.
Linda Wideman and Gail Dooley
Linda Wideman and Gail Dooley were married on April 27, 2009, the first day that they could legally do so in Iowa. On April 3, 2009, the state had become the third in the country to make same-sex marriage legal. Interviewed four years later in 2013 by the Journal Star, Dooley said that the rights afforded to the couple by their marriage were brought home recently, when the two faced a health concern and knew that medical personnel had to honor their joint decisions. Click here to read the story.
Mary Donaldson and Roberta Batt
On December 29, 2012, in Portland, Maine, antique dealers Mary Donaldson and Roberta Batt pinned corsages on each other as they waited to pick up their marriage licenses. They had been together for more than 30 years. Click here to read the story.
Phyllis Siegel and Connie Kopelov
When New York legalized same sex marriage in 2011, Phyllis Siegel and Connie Kopelov became Manhattan’s first same sex couple to get their license on July 24, after having been together for 23 years. Siegel told the New York Post, ‘‘It was just so amazing. It’s the only way I can describe it. I lost my breath and a few tears.’’ Click here to read the story.
Gene Barfield and Tim LaCroix
On March 15, 2013, Gene Barfield and Tim LaCroix became the first same sex couple in Michigan to wed when their tribe, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, amended their definition of marriage. Michigan does not recognize the marriage and will not extend the rights that the couple has been waiting 30 years for; but they did accept an invitation from Barack Obama to attend to attend an LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House. “The fact that there is going to be an LGBT celebration at the White House, times change, times change,” Barfield – who 20 years ago returned his military medals to protest “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” – told the Christian Post. Click here to read the story.
Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen
Washington State was one of three to make same sex marriage legal during the 2102 elections. In Seattle on December 5, Lightly and Petersen were among the hundreds of couples who applied for marriage licenses. Petersen told the AP, “We waited a long time. We’ve been together 35 years, never thinking we’d get a legal marriage. Now I feel so joyous I can’t hardly stand it.” Click here to read the story.
Diane Marsh and Linda McGregor
In Washington state, Diane Marsh and Linda McGregor picked up their marriage licenses after having considered themselves “married” for years. McGregor told the NW News Network that although they’d told themselves legal marriage was just a formality, “It’s far more than that.… At our age it’s a sense of security that we would have never had.” The couple now is guaranteed the financial security of survivor benefits and estate tax exemptions, among others – guarantees that heterosexual couples have long taken for granted. Click here to read the story.
Next up: Delaware will make same sex marriage licenses available starting July 1, and Minnesota and Rhode Island will follow suit on August 1.