Massachusetts Same-Sex-Marriage Anniversary: How Making History Unmade A Family Fifteen years ago, Hillary and Julie Goodridge married hours after Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage. But less than five years later, they were getting divorced.
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How Making History Unmade A Family

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How Making History Unmade A Family

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Fifteen years ago this week, Massachusetts became the first state in America to allow same-sex marriages. That followed a court challenge led by Hillary and Julie Goodridge. The couple wed as soon as they could with great fanfare and protest.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Till death do we part.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Till death do we part.

SHAPIRO: They divorced less than five years later. The Goodridges say in winning the right to marry, they lost their own marriage. They've been reluctant to talk about the personal toll of that landmark court battle until now. Gabrielle Emanuel of member station WGBH has their story.

GABRIELLE EMANUEL, BYLINE: Historians often divide the equal-marriage movement into "before Goodridge" and "after Goodridge." A decade later, the Supreme Court weighed in, guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. Still today, the Goodridge decision is held up alongside monumental Supreme Court decisions. Julie has a picture...

JULIE GOODRIDGE: From a gay pride march - and somebody was holding a sign that said Brown, Roe and Goodridge. And you know, I just kind of love that.

EMANUEL: But, Julie says, it's not all puppies and kittens. Fifteen years after their wedding, the Goodridges have decided to speak more candidly about the entirety of their experience. Hillary and Julie and their daughter Annie Goodridge came together at Julie's apartment in Boston.

J. GOODRIDGE: Every time - if you look at any interview that we've done, we've never talked about the trauma.

EMANUEL: Julie says the trauma took a couple different forms. Initially, Hillary remembers, it was the pressure to be perfect.

HILLARY GOODRIDGE: The stress of feeling like I have the entire community resting on our being likable.

EMANUEL: Hillary says every TV outlet wanted shots of her flipping pancakes, Julie ironing, Annie eating breakfast.

H. GOODRIDGE: We had to, you know, sort of look like the girls who could be next door, be not too threatening. You know, Julie and I weren't walking around in leather.

EMANUEL: No leather, no piercings - just two moms and their curly-haired daughter. They say the trauma also came from being targeted. The Goodridge lawsuit became a call to arms for opponents of same-sex marriage, including then-President George W. Bush.

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GEORGE W BUSH: Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.

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H. GOODRIDGE: I remember watching that and thinking - oh, my gosh.

J. GOODRIDGE: Well, we were, like - we just looked at each other. We were watching the State of the Union.

H. GOODRIDGE: He's talking about us.

J. GOODRIDGE: Yeah.

H. GOODRIDGE: It really got crazy very quickly.

EMANUEL: Across the country, there were efforts to forbid same-sex marriage. Forty-one states ultimately limited marriage to heterosexual couples. In the middle of it all, Hillary remembers getting a voicemail from her mother that went something like this.

H. GOODRIDGE: Hi, darling. Well, I see today you've managed to piss off the pope and the president. But when you get done with that, please give your mother a call.

EMANUEL: The pope and the president and soon Annie's playmates, too. Elementary school classmates refused to come to her house. She was called homophobic slurs. And Julie and Annie recall opponents sent around a flyer.

J. GOODRIDGE: It went into, you know, our sex life and how we were harming our daughter.

ANNIE GOODRIDGE: It was sent to the house of every family that was at my school.

EMANUEL: And the final type of trauma, Julie says, was losing each other.

J. GOODRIDGE: You know, we would kind of go our separate ways in the house.

EMANUEL: Julie says seeking couples counseling wasn't an option.

J. GOODRIDGE: We couldn't do that. It felt like too much of a risk. It felt like the word would get out.

EMANUEL: Less than two years after getting married, Hillary and Julie had separated. When news got out, it sent shockwaves through the gay community. Julie remembers getting...

J. GOODRIDGE: An incredibly nasty email about how we were going to be destroying the gay community. And I just felt like saying - you know what? - this is not what I chose. You know, I'm doing the best I can.

EMANUEL: Annie was 10 when they separated.

A. GOODRIDGE: It felt like our family let everyone down.

EMANUEL: With 15 years of distance, the three still spend Christmas together. And they say it was worth it, but they're not sure if they'd do it all again. Then, Annie starts a story. Nearby, there's a restaurant.

A. GOODRIDGE: And there's this waiters who works there.

EMANUEL: A few weeks ago, the waitress showed them pictures of her wedding. Julie says they saw two smiling brides.

J. GOODRIDGE: I remember thinking, she has absolutely no idea who we are. And it - that's what was kind of...

H. GOODRIDGE: It was kind of awesome.

J. GOODRIDGE: That's what was kind of great...

H. GOODRIDGE: That was great.

J. GOODRIDGE: ...About looking at those pictures, is she was just showing us because she could. And she felt comfortable to bring her pictures to her place of work.

A. GOODRIDGE: They were beautiful pictures.

J. GOODRIDGE: And, Annie Goodrich says, it's nice to have their family name stamped on something that made many gay couples happy.

For NPR News, I'm Gabrielle Emanuel in Boston.

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