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May 19, 2014

Salem couple chronicled history

SALEM — Marriage was on the minds of Patricia Gozemba and Karen Kahn when they set out nearly a decade ago to write their book: “Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages.”

Marriage was on their minds — just not their own marriage.

The two longtime feminists and activists, who had been together since 1990, began working on the book in the summer of 2005, or about a year after the historic first marriage in Cambridge City Hall.

A few months into the project, however, they decided to get hitched. And they decided to hold the ceremony in Cambridge.

Watching history unfold before their eyes helped them realize what an important right marriage is.

“We’re both kind of old-time feminists ...” said Gozemba, 74, a retired Salem State professor and local environmental activist. “But the both of us realized all the kinds of social and even societal benefits there were to being married in terms of legal protections, economic protections and all the rest.”

Although she says there is still a long way to go to achieve equality for the lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender community, Gozemba credits the current occupant of the White House with advancing the rights of same-sex couples.

“The Obama Administration has been tremendously helpful in assuring more equality ... and allowing us to file taxes together. And new Social Security benefits are coming down where surviving spouses can get the Social Security (benefits) of their spouses.”

Looking back a decade, the two Salem women are proud to have been part of history as activists, authors and a same-sex married couple.

“We’re very excited about this 10th anniversary,” said Gozemba. “Massachusetts certainly showed the way.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.

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