Saturday May 12, 2012

BOSTON -- Tanya McCloskey and Marcia Kadish were among the first same-sex couples to get married after the state became the first in the nation to legalize gay marriage eight years ago.

Since that day, May 17, 2004, the couple has enjoyed a new sense of acceptance of their decades-long relationship. But when President Barack Obama offered his support for same-sex marriage this week, it was like a whole new level of validation, McCloskey said.

"In my eyes, these are all stepping stones to change because this kind of change takes a while for people to get used to it," said, McCloskey, a 60-year-old massage therapist from Malden. "I think it's a big thing for him to step out and actually say that, and I really commend him for doing that. With the way this country is divided, it's a scary place to step out."

McCloskey said she believes that if Massachusetts hadn't legalized gay marriage, Obama never would have been able to state his own support.

"I think the Massachusetts decision was huge because it went around the world," she said. "It just shot around the world, and it just brought it up into everybody's consciousness."

Since 2004, six states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. For Robyn Ochs, a Boston woman who married her longtime partner, Peg Preble, in 2004, same-sex marriage has become "no big deal" because it has been allowed for years and many people have come to accept it.


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But Ochs, a retired Harvard University administrator who travels the country speaking to students about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, said she is reminded of how precious the acceptance is when she goes to states where same-sex marriage is illegal.

"Many of the students I work with have never met someone who is legally married to someone of their own sex, and it's powerful to them," she said.

"One student in Wyoming said to me, ‘You're a visitor from a future that I hope to live in some day,"' Ochs said.

Obama's statement of support for gay marriage this week is "symbolically huge," she said.

"The president has been taking steps all along through his presidency to move LGBT rights forward, but this step is so symbolically important that I almost fainted from happiness when I heard it," she said. "Nobody was actually granted any additional rights at the moment he made that statement, but it was extremely empowering. To have the most powerful man in the world stand up and affirm your full citizenship and equality, it is profoundly moving. It's overwhelming. It's wonderful."