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The Relationship Is Over for a Pair of Gay Pioneers

The two women at the center of Massachusetts' landmark marriage ruling have separated.

July 22, 2006|Elizabeth Mehren | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — The couple who lent their name to the lawsuit that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts have separated, a family spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

Julie Goodridge, 49, and Hillary Goodridge, 50, were married on May 17, 2004, the first day that same-sex couples were permitted to wed in Massachusetts under the terms of the court case Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health.

The landmark 4-3 decision by the state's Supreme Judicial Court made Massachusetts the first state to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

No other state has followed suit, although Connecticut has legalized same-sex civil unions, which already were permitted in Vermont when the Goodridge decision came down.

On the heels of the Goodridge decision, 20 states have passed constitutional amendments to classify marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and at least 19 states including Massachusetts are exploring such constitutional amendments.

The Goodridges, who selected a common surname after perusing their families' histories, declined to comment Friday on the split. They have a 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

Family spokeswoman Mary Breslauer said Friday: "Julie and Hillary Goodridge are amicably living apart. As always, their No. 1 priority is raising their daughter.

Like the other plaintiff couples in this case, they made an enormous contribution toward equal marriage, but they are no longer in the public eye and request that their privacy be respected."

Breslauer would not speculate whether the pressures associated with the legal battle had contributed to the Goodridges' breakup. Seven same-sex couples acted as plaintiffs in the Massachusetts lawsuit.

"I think this is much more about recognizing that plaintiff couples, even those that are at the center of the storm, are simply at the end real people with real lives," Breslauer said.

"Relationships and marriages are both precious and vulnerable, all at the same time, and theirs is no different."

The Goodridges have not filed for divorce, Breslauer said.

More than 8,000 same-sex couples have traded vows in Massachusetts since the Goodridges walked down the aisle of a Unitarian Universalist church as wedding guests merrily sang "Here Come the Brides." About 45 gay and lesbian couples have divorced, according to state figures.

Among activists on both sides of the marriage issue, reaction to the Goodridges' split was muted.

Said communications director Lisa Barstow of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which is heading the move to end same-sex marriage in the state: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Annie, the Goodridges' 10-year-old daughter, and that's really all we choose to say about this. This is a personal matter, and I think we need to treat it with that kind of dignity."

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, also declined to discuss what he called "a personal thing between the Goodridges," except to say he did not think their split would hamper the broader same-sex marriage effort.

"It will have no impact on the struggle for marriage equality," he said. "This is a long-term struggle, and we're going to have advances and setbacks along the way."

At Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders -- the Boston-based nonprofit that brought the historic lawsuit on behalf of the seven same-sex couples, Executive Director Lee Swislow said: "We're just very sad.... We care so much about Hillary and Julie. They were so brave and so powerful, and they made a difference."

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