NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - It's been eight years since Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage and the milestone comes at a time when public opinion appears to be shifting.
Six states plus the District of Columbia allow same sex couples to marry and thirteen others passed civil union laws; a big change from 1996, when not one state recognized same sex relationships.
When it comes to gay marriage, Massachusetts is one of the most progressive states in the union. Since 2004, more than 18,000 same sex couples have wed in the state; Jen Harlan and Joy Rain are one of them.
"It was immensely satisfying and meaningful to be able to marry the woman that I love. And have it be a legally recognized entity," said Northampton resident Jennifer Harlan of her 2009 wedding.
But gay marriage is not recognized at the federal level. 15 years ago the House of Representatives passed the Defense of Marriage Act , a bill that under federal law defines a marriage between one man and one woman.
"People who have questions they start to get to know lesbians and gay families and they realize 'wow they are just like us' and we are just like them. But the more we have dinner conversations and coffee conversations, I have no doubt we will all have rights very shortly," said Joy Rain of Northampton.
Rain and Harlan own Northampton's Pride and Joy , a small business which promotes inclusion and sells gay-friendly memorabilia.
One 2011 study found Americans are becoming more accepting of gay marriage.. In the last 15 years public support has doubled and more than a third of Fortune 500 companies offer benefits to gay and lesbian employees with partners.
"I really wasn't interested in it one way or the other, our minister in Monson is gay and he's married, that fellow is a font of wisdom. I'm favor it, primarily because of Derek our minister," said Dave Uguccioni of Palmer in Northampton Thursday afternoon.
There was a 1913 state law that didn't allow gay couples to marry in Massachusetts if their unions were illegal in their home state. But in 2008, Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill that repealed that ban.