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NBC Nightly News

sanford katz

May 17, 2004

Massachusetts legalizes gay marriage

TOM BROKAW, anchor:
It is one of the most contentious social issues in America today: same-sex marriages. And now Massachusetts has moved to the forefront of this dispute by recognizing as legal gay marriages. But while same-sex couples were getting married in that state, President Bush renewed his call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. And Massachusetts lawmakers vowed to try to overturn the law in that state. NBC's Rehema Ellis has the latest.
REHEMA ELLIS reporting:
Just after midnight, thousands celebrated what was once just a dream. Paul McGraff and Lorenzo Claudio were among those who made history, getting one of the first legal marriage license for same-sex couples in Massachusetts.
Unidentified Man #1: We've been together 13 years, but it feels like a new beginning.
Unidentified Woman #1: By the power vested in me...
Unidentified Woman #2: ...I now pronounce you...
Unidentified Man #2: ...legally married.
ELLIS: By midmorning, couples, previously denied the opportunity, now able to say, 'I do.' But the happiness was not embraced by everyone.
Unidentified Man #3: It's the voice of evil.
Unidentified Woman #3: We can't--get lost.
ELLIS: And here at the statehouse, some Massachusetts lawmakers have started a process to overturn same-sex marriage by putting the question before the voters in 2006.
Across the country, 38 states have already passed laws banning same-sex marriage. Six other states will vote on the issue this year. It means the rights that come with marriage, such as making medical decisions for each other and being able to adopt children, would not apply outside of Massachusetts for gay couples whose marriages are recognized here.
Mr. SANFORD KATZ: If the couple wants to get a divorce...
ELLIS: Sanford Katz, an expert in family law.
Mr. KATZ: If we're going to have a unified country, all states really should recognize other states' decisions, decrees and laws. Otherwise, we'll have a divided country.
ELLIS: Today's Massachusetts action is further limited because the marriages are not recognized by the federal government. So such things as Medicare and Social Security benefits are still denied to same-sex couples.
Man #1: It'll be nice that we're all able to sit together at one table...
ELLIS: As Paul and Lorenzo finalize wedding plans, they're optimistic.
Unidentified Man #4: I think that it's just a matter of time that we are going to be recognized in every state of the nation as a couple.
ELLIS: Tonight, while some couples celebrate in Massachusetts, the debate here and around the country goes on. Rehema Ellis, NBC News, Boston.