Salem couple sheds privacy to fight for gay marriage
by Ben Casselman - Staff writer
photograph by Kira Horvath

Salem News
Monday, January 24, 2005

SALEM — Bob Murch and Gary Halteman hardly seem like radicals.

Halteman is soft-spoken, even shy. Murch had never kissed a man before he met Halteman. They own their own home. They work for Fidelity.

But the photos on their mantelpiece tell a different story. They are newspaper photographs, from their May 17 wedding on the steps of Salem City Hall, the first same-sex marriage on the North Shore.

Now the once-private men are opening their decade-long relationship to public scrutiny once again. Last week, the couple unveiled www.civilmarriagecivilright.com, a Web site they hope will help spread gay marriage rights beyond Massachusetts to the rest of the country.

"We're really excited that we got to get married," Murch said, "but we'll be even more excited when my friends in California and Ohio and New Mexico can get married."

The site includes many of the usual arguments for gay marriage — equality under the law, separation of church and state, comparisons to the civil rights movement — but at its core, the site is about Halteman and Murch themselves. The site tells their story, from their meeting as students at the University of New Hampshire to their May 17 wedding and includes a "wedding album" of photographs and a collection of letters.

"This site is going to make the whole same-sex marriage issue personal," Murch said.

"It's easy to read about legislation and dismiss it, but when you put a face and a name to it, it makes it more real," Halteman said. "There's tons of Web sites out there that kind of give the laws. ... The point of our Web site is our story. First and foremost, it's going to be about us."

Even two years ago, Murch and Halteman couldn't have imagined themselves taking this kind of public role. Neither had been active in the gay rights movement before the state Supreme Judicial Court's ruling in November 2003. They hadn't gone to Vermont to get a civil union, hadn't held a commitment ceremony, hadn't participated in Pride Day marches.

 Their wedding changed all that.

"I was always very private until our wedding day, and then something inside me flipped a switch — and suddenly I'm not so private anymore," Halteman said. "I almost feel like I have a duty and an obligation to speak up."

Still, Murch admits that attaching his name and face to such a controversial cause can be intimidating.

"It is scary," he said, "but what's scarier is that you might lose everything because you didn't say anything."

Reprinted courtesy of The Salem News


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