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A Wedding Anniversary for First Mass. Gay Couple

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

One year ago, a Massachusetts state Supreme Court ruling went into effect, making Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage. Joining us now from Massachusetts are Susan Shepherd at her office in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Hello, Susan.

Ms. SUSAN SHEPHERD: Hi, Alex.

CHADWICK: And her spouse, Marcia Hams, from her office in Boston.

Hello, Marcia.

Ms. MARCIA HAMS: Hello. How are you?

CHADWICK: I'm well. You-all were the first couple to file an intent to marry under this newly legalized process and, in fact, you did marry. You've been married almost a year now. How are your lives different?

Ms. HAMS: Well, I think, first, we've been together for 28 years and have a 25-year-old son and this is really the first time that we're recognized legally and throughout the community as a family. And it's meant that we have more security in terms of benefits, but I think more than that, we've really been able to share our lives in a completely different way with so many of our friends and neighbors, many of whom didn't really know how to talk to us about our family, and that's been just a terrific thing for everyone, them included.

Ms. SHEPHERD: It's been amazing for our son. Even after all this time, I think he feels that this is really the kind of public acknowledgement that we've deserved and that he's now able to talk about it as a family with the support of the government.

CHADWICK: But you-all considered yourselves a family and an ongoing couple before you were married.

Ms. SHEPHERD: Oh, sure, but it was really amazing to be able to just say those words in public and to have all of our family and friends celebrate it. It was just surprising.

CHADWICK: Surprising?

Ms. SHEPHERD: Yeah. Yeah, very much so.

Ms. HAMS: I think that one of the things that happens when you haven't been able to have this right and this kind of recognition, well, you just kind of put it out of your mind and didn't think about it. And I think you're always, particularly at the time that we were raising Peter, very much cautious about what you're going to say because you want to be protective of him and I think things are going to be different for children in gay and lesbian families, although we have a long way to go in the rest of the country. That's--we certainly understand that.

CHADWICK: You know, marriage is complex and it can be difficult. Half of all marriages in this country--I think this statistic is still correct--end in divorce, largely I think because of the emotional burdens of living with another person. I just wonder about bearing all this and being a political symbol. And not just any political symbol, but a symbol that really inflames passions hugely.

Ms. SHEPHERD: What, you think it'll hurt our relationship?

CHADWICK: Well, I don't know. I mean, it's just kind of one more thing you've got to carry around, you know.

Ms. SHEPHERD: Well, I just...

CHADWICK: You worry about the bills, you worry about the kids, you worry about all that kind of stuff. And to have to worry about, `How do I look as a political symbol?' just seems like a burden.

Ms. SHEPHERD: I think it could be, except that this is just so ingrained in our lives right now. It's so important to be able to speak to the issue, and also we've had an incredible amount of support from the people in our lives. At our wedding, we had over 260 people and we figured out that only 20 percent of them were gay or lesbian. So that's a lot of straight people to put in a room; 50 of them were our family members. We've lived in the same area all our lives. Our son has been in sports, he's been in hockey, and people have always cared about us and have always been good to us and on some level recognized our relationship.

CHADWICK: Twenty-eight years as a couple. You're about to celebrate your first anniversary. What are you going to do?

Ms. SHEPHERD: Right. It's like starting over.

Ms. HAMS: Well, we finally had our honeymoon about a month and a half ago in Puerto Rico, so we were really happy to do that. So that seemed like quite a celebration.

CHADWICK: Marcia Hams and Susan Shepherd, about to celebrate their first anniversary in Massachusetts.

Congratulations to you both.

Ms. HAMS: Thank you very much.

Ms. SHEPHERD: Well, thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: And we have more just ahead on DAY TO DAY from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Alex Chadwick
For more than 30 years, Alex Chadwick has been bringing the world to NPR listeners as an NPR News producer, program host and currently senior correspondent. He's reported from every continent except Antarctica.
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