by Dinah Cardin - Staff Writer
North Shore Sunday
Friday, January 14, 2005
Salem - On Nov. 2, one person watching the presidential election returns at Salem's Hawthorne Hotel looked particularly grim. Bob Murch paced and turned pale, just before his heart sank as it looked like four more years of George Bush.
It was then that the Salem resident decided he and others like him had not done enough to show those around them, and especially residents of Ohio, who they are. This might have tipped one the biggest deciding factors in this election - gay marriage.
Chances are, he won't look or feel any better when the president is inaugurated in grand style on Jan. 20.
Murch exchanged vows with his partner of 10 years, Gary Halteman, on the steps of Salem City Hall on May 17, becoming the first same-sex couple in the city and one of the first in the state to tie the knot ("Wed-letter day," Sunday, May 23, '04).
But having the right is not enough, says Murch, if it is to be taken away. That will be decided when the Massachusetts Legislature reconvenes the Constitutional Convention during this session.
This is the reason Murch, with the help of pal and Web guru Christian Day,
has created a slick Web site (www.civilmarriagecivilright.com) recounting
the details of the couple's meeting story, decade-long relationship and the
eventual moment they obtained the elusive marriage certificate.
Organizations promoting same-sex marriage have missed an opportunity to convey personal experiences that make couples like them real to others, says Murch. The home page has a welcoming message that looks to be printed right on the couple's wedding invitation, inviting strangers from around the world into their lives to take an up-close look.
"I can only tell from my own perspective what I want my life to be like and what I deserve. If you are going to vote to change my life, take a close look at my life," says Murch.
That magnified look reveals a recent situation when Murch had a fairly extensive stay at Salem Hospital and Halteman was not allowed to spend overnights in Murch's shared room. That's when Murch's family stepped up and gave the nurses a talking-to about the couple's legal marriage and all the rights that came with it.
Since then, the couple has received several apologies, including recognition of the irony that the first same-sex couple to marry in Salem would later run afoul of their community hospital.
Where are all the other couples who were married as a result of the new legislation, asks Murch - all reported 4,000 of them? They're hiding in fear, he guesses, hoping their lives will not be disrupted by a new vote.
"I'm hoping this site coaxes some of them out," he says.
The inexhaustible Murch plans to hand-deliver to every office in the State House a packet that will direct legislators to the site. It will also include personal information, like a DVD of the couple's festive wedding reception.
"I hope they think, 'This vote is going to affect that guy who dropped that stuff off,'" says Murch. "These are people's lives. This isn't some distant issue they are voting on. I can't speak for other people, but I can speak for Gary and me. Everyone is caught on the M word, but I'm caught on my life."
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