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Lesbian Couple That Pioneered Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts Splits Up

The lesbian couple whose lawsuit led to legal same-sex marriage in Massachusetts have announced they have separated.

"Julie and Hillary Goodridge are amicably living apart," Mary Breslauer, a local political consultant, said Thursday night on their behalf. Breslauer declined to comment on how long they had been separated or whether the couple planned to divorce.

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The Goodridges were among seven gay couples whose lawsuit helped thrust Massachusetts into the center of a nationwide debate on gay marriage. The state's Supreme Judicial Court issued its narrow 4-3 ruling in November 2003 in their favor — saying gays and lesbians had a right under the state constitution to wed.

The Goodridges were married May 17, 2004, the first day same-sex marriages became legal under the court ruling, by a Unitarian Universalist minister. Their daughter, Annie, now 10, served as ring-bearer and flower girl.

Now, Breslauer said, for Annie's sake, the Goodridges want privacy.

The child figured prominently in the Goodridges' case. When Julie Goodridge gave birth by cesarean section, there were complications. Hillary Goodridge, at the time having no legal relationship with mother or child, said she was barred several times from seeing her daughter and partner.

"Even though their number one priority was their daughter," Breslauer said, "marriage makes her also their legal obligation. Their daughter is more protected because they are married."

Julie Goodridge declined to comment, saying Breslauer was the family's acting spokeswoman. Hillary Goodridge did not return a telephone message left at a business listing Thursday night.

"The plaintiff couple in this case are real people with real lives. They're not immune from life's ups and downs," Breslauer said. "Certainly over the course of time there will be same sex couples that separate just as happens in other marriages."