by Steve Desroches
It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the air warm, but cooled by a steady breeze, particularly comfortable atop High Pole Hill at the foot of the Pilgrim Monument. But despite the spectacular view the hundreds assembled for the annual GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) Summer Party are focused on exactly when two special guests are arriving.
Two LGBT rights heavyweights – GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto and Edie Windsor, the defendant in the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, which struck down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, were guests of honor, and everyone there wanted to say “thank you.”
In the 31 years GLAD has been holding its Summer Party, this was by far the most well-attended, says outgoing executive director Lee Swislow to the crowd. Indeed there is a lot to celebrate with all the advancements of LGBT equality over the past year in America. Swislow begins to list the federal rights that are now available to gay and lesbian people. It’s overwhelming, and moves some people to tears.
“People thought we were crazy to think such a thing,” says Swislow, of GLAD’s 6×12 campaign launched in 2008 to bring marriage equality to all six New England states by 2012. “And maybe we were because we were three and a half months late when Rhode Island, in April, became the last state for marriage equality!”
The crowd erupted into cheers. But the cheer turned to a roar when 83-year-old Windsor was introduced and walked up to the podium.
“I wasn’t going to speak,” says Windsor. “But I just had to.”
Everyone laughs, as it was speaking up and out that has made her a historical figure in the United States for civil rights. Windsor and her late spouse Thea Spyer had been together for 40 years when they lawfully married in Toronto in 2007. Spyer passed away leaving her estate to Windsor, who in turn was required to pay $363,053 in federal estate taxes as DOMA prevented her from claiming a spousal deduction. So she sued the United States…and won.
“What a way to celebrate my beloved Thea,” says Windsor.
The crowd shouts “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
But Windsor won’t allow all the attention to stay on herself. She quotes her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, saying: “No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto.”
Bonauto is the architect of the marriage equality movement in the judicial branch, successfully arguing before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2003 for same sex marriage in the Commonwealth, perhaps the most well known of her many accomplishments. The ovation and applause for Bonauto is deafening.
Ever since the Supreme Court decision, the town clerk’s office at Provincetown Town Hall has seen a sharp increase in applications for marriage licenses, sometimes 30 a day. Even on this day, as some in the crowd strolled down from the hill onto Commercial Street, two men in a pedicab passed by, tin cans trailing and a “Just Married” sign on the back, as people on the street cheered and clapped. Indeed, it was a beautiful day.