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20 years ago Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Twenty years ago today, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Just after midnight on May 17, 2004, couples began filling out license applications at Cambridge City Hall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIANT: By the power vested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIANT: ...I hereby pronounce you legally married. Amen.

INSKEEP: Many Americans opposed same-sex marriage, and banning it became an issue in that year's election, but public opinion was changing. And today that moment stands as a milestone. Michelle Coleman remembers the day, and also that she wanted to wait a little longer to marry Pam Waterman.

MICHELLE COLEMAN: We didn't get married on that day because we wanted a big celebration - I did, anyway. I wanted a big party, so we did begin planning right away.

INSKEEP: They married later that year. Here's Pam.

PAM WATERMAN: So we got married at this house by a priest, and we also jumped the broom, and then we had our friend play the shekere, and so calling the ancestors - so it was just a mix of all the things.

COLEMAN: All the traditions, yeah.

WATERMAN: And so it was just a way to ensure that whether or not the law stayed in place, our marriage would still stay in place.

INSKEEP: People did not know if it would stay in place until 2015, when the Supreme Court made same-sex marriages legal nationwide. That was over a decade after the Massachusetts top court issued its ruling that ended the state's ban.

WATERMAN: Massachusetts says you're welcome.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: While their wedding was notable, Waterman says their marriage has been ordinary.

WATERMAN: I don't feel like our hardships or our joys, even, have been any different than any other marriage that I saw growing up - you know, the heterosexual couples - except that we might get some drama because we're same-sex, which I think has lessened considerably over the years. But it's just been a regular old, boring, day-to-day, lovely, she gets on my nerves, I get on her nerves, wonderful, can't-live-without-each-other marriage.

INSKEEP: In October, Pam Waterman and Michelle Coleman celebrate their 20th anniversary. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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