Providence Journal – 5/17/04 Gays line up for licenses 08:17 AM EDT on Monday, May 17, 2004 BY JESSICA RESNICK-AULT Journal Staff Writer CAMBRIDGE, Mass -- They arrived late Saturday night and slept on the steps of City Hall. They were first in line. At 12:01 a.m. today, after 27 years together, Susan Shephard and Marcia Hams walked down the stairs inside Cambridge City Hall to an office in the basement. They would become the first gay couple to obtain their marriage license in Massachusetts, the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriages. They were ushered by their son, Peter Hams, 24, who said: "We always considered ourselves a family and now Cambridge recognizes it and everyone else will too." Across the commonwealth, marriage licenses for same-sex couples became available from city and town clerks today, during regular business hours. Only Cambridge opened its clerk's office at midnight to allow couples to apply for licenses at the first available moment. The decision to open early was "about equality and equity," according to Cambridge Mayor Michael A. Sullivan. Massachusetts now joins the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada's three most populous provinces as the only places worldwide where gays can marry. In a 4-3 ruling in November, the state's Supreme Judicial Court said gays and lesbians had a right under the state constitution to wed. Eve Alpern and Brenda Morris were seventh in line before midnight among 250 couples streaming along the sidewalk in front of City Hall. In all, thousands of people -- family members, supporters, and a few protesters -- showed up. Journal photo / Glenn Osmundson Sonia Hendrickson, left, a massage therapist in Warwick, and partner Baxter Brooke, who will graduate this month from Johnson & Wales University, wait on the steps of Cambridge City Hall last night for a marriage license. They live in Cambridge. They were planning to apply for a court waiver of the mandatory 72-hour waiting peroid to get married. Alpern said that they had come from their home in the Roslindale section of Boston to "do something festive that felt like it had critical mass." And all the festivity of a wedding abounded: Alpern held a bouquet; Morris wore a suit with a boutonniere. Their wedding has been in the works for months. The couple has planned a Jewish ceremony; the guest list totaled 80. Another couple shared a celebratory dinner, complete with goblets of wine, on a folding table balanced on the stone steps. A candidate for state representative offered roses to pairs of brides and couples of eagerly awaiting grooms. Also in line were Sue Hyde of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and her partner, Jade McGleughlin. "My entire life, I have lived with a kind of discrimation," Hyde, of Cambridge, said. "In daily life, my most intimate relationship was erased. At the earliest possible moment I wanted to write this relationship into the record books." She stressed the important benefits of marriage, which will enable her to care for her family in an emergency. So she too waited near the front of the pack for 24 hours. Couples must wait 72 hours after they apply for the marriage license before they can get married. But some waiting last night were planning to apply for a waiver to that rule in district court today. Baxter Brooke and her soon-to-be wife, Sonia Hendrickson, said they will apply for the waiver. "I'm not going to take any chances. I'm too afraid something is going to come up," Brooke said. Brooke is graduating May 22 from Johnson & Wales University with a degree in culinary arts. Hendrickson is a massage therapist in Warwick. The couple lives in Cambridge. Protesters showed up just before 10 p.m. last night, holding signs with messages like, "God Hates America." Their numbers were small and police kept them at bay. The Supreme Judicial Court issued its November ruling in a case brought by seven couples denied marriage licenses by their cities and towns. The state constitution "forbids the creation of second-class citizens," Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall wrote in the court's opinion. Opponents of same-sex marriage, including Governor Romney, advocated civil unions as an alternative to marriage. Same-sex civil unions, legal in Vermont since 2000, protected couples under Vermont state law but denied federal protections given to married couples. Journal photo / Gretchen Ertl Tibor Bago, pastry chef at The Provincetown Portuguese Bakery, in Provincetown, Mass., yesterday shows employee Raquel Chaves the first wedding cake he decorated for a same-sex couple. But these protections were inadequate, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled. Clarifying its earlier ruling, the court in February said anything less than a marriage, even a "civil union," was not constitutionally acceptable. Marriage is about far more than rings and vows: legal marriage carries over 1,000 federal protections, according to a federal report released in 1997. These include the right to take leave from work to care for a family member, the right to sponsor a spouse for immigration purposes, and Social Security survivor benefits. Civil unions lack these federal protections. The legislature on March 29 passed a constitutional amendment that would outlaw same-sex marriages and authorize civil unions. But before it can be enacted, the amendment must be approved by the next legislative session and then approved by the voters in 2006. Opponents last week sought unsuccessfully to block the impending same-sex marriages in federal court. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston agreed to hear arguments on the request next month, but the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday refused to halt marriages immediately. Romney has vowed to enforce an obscure 1913 law prohibiting out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would be void in their home states. No other states currently allow homosexual marriage; 38 have approved the federally endorsed Defense of Marriage Act. The Rhode Island General Assembly is currently considering legislation that would prohibit it. Attorney General Patrick Lynch has said he would issue a statement today on the status of Rhode Island gay couples who wed in Massachusetts. Town clerks have been advised to issue licenses only to couples residing in Massachusetts or who intend to move to the commonwealth, but clerks in Somerville, Worcester, and Provincetown say they will not ask couples applying for licenses about their residency. With legal challenges threatening the state's ability to continue to issue marriage licenses, some same-sex couples have vowed to get married quickly. An informal survey of nearly 500 homosexual couples planning to marry found 38 percent planned to marry this week. The survey, conducted by MassEquality and the Massachusetts Freedom to Marry Coalition, said 13 percent said they would marry by the end of the month, and 46 percent by the end of the year. Jessica Resnick-Ault can be contacted by phone at 508-674-8401 or by e-mail at JRAult [at] projo.com. Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.