Why I’m Working for Martha 


Valerie Fein-Zachary
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Valerie Fein-Zachary  Photo:

Valerie Fein-Zachary

By: Valerie Fein Zachary*/Special to TRT—

My wife, Jacqueline, and I are celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary this week (the 10th legal one, of course). We got involved in the marriage equality movement as leaders in the Freedom to Marry Coalition and fought hard, first in the LGBT community to get folks to realize we deserved full equality not just a handful of legal rights, and then, to convince our allies that we are equal and that our love mattered.  

We celebrated a pivotal victory when the 2003 Goodridge decision allowed same-sex couples to marry. Anti-LGBT activists galvanized national support for a series of constitutional amendments to strike down this monumental decision. With laser focus, LGBT activists rallied and steadily increased support for equality to eventually defeat those efforts in the State House. Many people in our community, specifically leaders for employment and transgender equality, put their own agendas on hold while we collectively fought and won this fight. 

The infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) loomed over every married same-sex couple and family in Massachusetts because of its implication that our marriages were not equal; we were denied over 1,100 federal BENEFITS.

In 2009, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders bravely took on DOMA, making Massachusetts the first state in the country to successfully challenge the law. Martha Coakley made the national case for equality while many other elected officials were running away. She didn’t do it to win a political chess game or a popularity contest. She did it because she believed it was fundamentally wrong to deny thousands of married couples in Massachusetts federal marriage benefits and treat them as second-class citizens. She turned that belief into action on behalf of the LGBT community. Martha won that case in federal court and it had a ripple effect across the country that we’re still feeling years later. [pullquote]Martha Coakley made the national case for equality while many other elected officials were running away. She didn’t do it to win a political chess game or a popularity contest. … Martha won that case in federal court and it had a ripple effect across the country that we’re still feeling years later.[/pullquote]

And she did it again with the Proposition 8 case in California! Not only did she file a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Prop 8, she convinced 13 other state attorneys general to join her. This work led to the current wave of support for marriage equality in several states. Martha Coakley saw an injustice and leveraged her knowledge, skill, and position to help others, setting a national precedent that LGBT people deserve to be treated equally. 

After our marriage victory in Massachusetts, many folks “leaned back” and rested on their laurels, but Martha “leaned in.” She helped move us forward, testifying in support of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill in 2011. She used her voice as Attorney General to advocate for the folks who continue to face discrimination simply because of who they are. Her continued public support for a comprehensive transgender equal rights law will end discrimination against those in our community who have been and continue to be marginalized. There are only a few elected officials other than Martha Coakley who are out front on this issue. [pullquote]She helped move us forward, testifying in support of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill in 2011. … Her continued public support for a comprehensive transgender equal rights law will end discrimination against those in our community who have been and continue to be marginalized. There are only a few elected officials other than Martha Coakley who are out front on this issue.[/pullquote]

As for our youth, she authored a tough anti-bullying bill that helps at-risk youth in our schools and gives them the support they need to feel safe. In April, Attorney General Coakley proudly stood with school climate advocates as Governor Patrick signed the bill, which enhances the current law to provide the strongest protections for LGBTQ YOUTH in the country. 

Attorney General Coakley trained law enforcement officials on addressing hate crimes and providing justice to those who are victims of hate based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. 

No other candidate in this gubernatorial race has the track record of doing what Martha has done. Some have really helped and supported us, but I have yet to see a better LGBT equality champion. She’s even laid out a plan on her website for addressing the issues that are still facing our community once she’s elected—including youth homelessness, aging issues and healthcare equality. [pullquote]As for our youth, she authored a tough anti-bullying bill that helps at-risk youth in our schools and gives them the support they need to feel safe. In April, Attorney General Coakley proudly stood with school climate advocates as Governor Patrick signed the bill, which enhances the current law to provide the strongest protections for LGBTQ youth in the country. [/pullquote]

I believe the MASSEQUALITY PAC—the leading statewide grassroots organization working on our behalf to elect pro-equality champions—has endorsed a true winner for governor. When she wins, I know that we can all live, love and thrive in Massachusetts without the threat of discrimination or oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  

I have thought long and hard about whether any other candidate in the race for Governor has helped accomplish our vision of full equality as expansively as Martha has. No other candidate has DEVOTED their time and resources to support the issues facing the LGBT community like Martha Coakley. I’m working for Martha because she works for us. I hope that you will come out this campaign season and help us win!   

*Valerie Fein-Zachary was a co-founder and former president of the Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts and is a member of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and Women in Medicine, a national lesbian physician organization.  She also sits on the MassEquality PAC Board. 

[From a News Release]