by Dan Tuohy, Staff Writer
Sunday Eagle-Tribune
May 15, 2005
Page B1

BOSTON — Even their whispers echo in the cavernous foyer of the Statehouse.

“It's paper, right?” Gary asks Bob.

Bob nods in agreement.

That's paper — as in the traditional gift for a first-year marriage anniversary.

While their courtship began 11 years ago, Gary Daren Halteman and Robert L. Murch Jr. are titillated by the idea of celebrating their first year of marriage. But the couple, proud to have been the first same-sex marriage in Salem, Mass., have no grand celebration plans.

They may spend a quiet day or night together. It will be unlike May 17, 2004, when the newlyweds stared at their television, fingers crossed,waiting to see if Gov. Mitt Romney or others would go to court to try to revoke their union.

“Equality comes in increments," Bob says. "You take what you can get.”

The milestone, however, brings no rest for their political activism. Halteman and Murch estimate they have spent $2,000 lobbying the Legislature to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The Legislature narrowly approved a measure last year thatwould overturn gay marriage in favor of civil unions. Should the Legislature approve it again this fall, voters would decide the issue in 2006.

They have high hopes lawmakers will reject the amendment and keep Massachusetts' landmark gay marriage law.

They say they received a warm reception when they recently met with legislators from North of Boston. Rep. John D. Keenan, D Salem, personally escorted them into House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi's office.

“It's definitely a different atmosphere,” Halteman says. “We got the sense that there wasn't any strong-arming.”

Adds Murch, “The sky has not fallen.”

The men, both 31, met while students at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. They first noticed each other in the library. Theywere studying psychology texts. Today, they work as financial analysts.

But in the wake of the Supreme Judicial Court's opinion that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marriage, they find themselves unlikely civil rights crusaders. They now have their own Web site,, to defend what they say is their equal right to marriage.

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