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On This Day in 2004: First State-Recognized Same-Sex Marriage in U.S.

Marcia Kadish and Tanya McCloskey

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the first legal, state-recognized same-sex marriage in the U.S.

Tanya McCloskey and Marcia Kadish were married at City Hall in Cambridge, Mass., May 17, 2004 — the day the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s marriage equality ruling from the previous year went into effect. They had already been together nearly 20 years.

“We felt we were married already,” Kadish told Rachel Martin on NPR’s Morning Edition. “This was just making it legal.”

Marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in Minnesota in 1971, Colorado in 1975, and San Francisco in February 2004 (and in the case of San Francisco, ceremonies were performed), but those licenses were eventually invalidated. McCloskey and Kadish’s union, though, had the full blessing of their state, the first to legalize same-sex marriage.

They received their license shortly after midnight May 17 and obtained a waiver of the three-day waiting period mandated between the license’s issuance and the wedding. When the Cambridge City Hall opened a few hours later, they were first in line among couples planning to marry, entirely by accident, Kadish said.

They arrived early “because we wanted to go to everybody else’s wedding,” she told Morning Edition. “We wanted to participate all day long in weddings.”

Their marriage endured until McCloskey’s death January 6, 2016. She had endometrial cancer that spread to her lungs, brain, bones, and blood.

Throughout McCloskey’s illness, the fact that she and Kadish were legally married assured the couple of support. “There was never a time that I couldn’t see her in the hospital,” Kadish said. “I pretty much didn’t leave her side for almost a year. And we were respected. It was a beautiful thing, the support. It was an awful, ugly thing, the sickness.”

They were always aware of the importance of their groundbreaking status. “We wanted to lead by example, not that we were leaders of anything,” Kadish said. “We just wanted to make sure that the world saw the most positive side of being a gay couple.”

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