In 1713 -- nearly 300 years ago -- Chambers Russell was born. A founder of the town of Lincoln, Massachusetts, Russell built a two-story Georgian mansion house on the property about 1740 -- still decades before the colonies would declare their independence from Great Britain. Russell, a lawyer and judge, died before the new nation would be formed, but the property was passed on, first to his son and then to his son's nephew, Charles Russell Codman.
The property, now known as the Codman Estate, still exists. Having been expanded over time by the Codmans and given as a gift by Dorothy Codman to Historic New England in 1969, the house today is open for tours and the property is used for events.
This past weekend, I was at the Codman Estate, having the honor to serve as the best man for my friend Scott Galea at his wedding. I've known Scott since we met at American University as undergrads, and the wedding was as beautiful as anything I've ever seen in person.
His now-husband, Hansa Bergwall, comes from the area, and their families and friends met at the estate on August 5 to celebrate their marriage. The New York couple decided, even after the passage of marriage equality in the Empire State, to wed in Massachusetts. The first state to achieve marriage equality, it seemed appropriate to marry there, especially given Hansa's roots in the state.
The ceremony, which took place in the more than 100-year-old Italianate garden on the property, began with the grooms walking down the aisle on each side of the garden's water lily-filled reflecting pool -- and ended with one teary-eyed groom and one groom with an unending smile.
For me, it was a little of both. Although I've been in several wedding parties, this was the first time that I had the opportunity to be a part of a same-sex couple's wedding. It was -- particularly settled in such a location as we were -- both ordinary and extraordinary to be celebrating their wedding in that place.
It is easy to get caught up -- and I often do -- in the legal cases and political debates surrounding same-sex marriage. Tracking those cases and debates is important. But, as people like Freedom to Marry's Evan Wolfson, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders's Mary Bonauto and others constantly remind anyone who will listen, the change we are seeing is, at the end of this personal and societal evolution, about the couples themselves and their families.
As we celebrated their marriage throughout the evening, the spirit of the night was steeped both in the history of the estate and the history of the moment in which we live. It is a history that began with a judge born three centuries ago -- and a progression to a time when two wonderful men could, thanks to judges born centuries later, have their marriage recognized by the state and celebrated by their friends and family.
[Photo: Hansa Bergwall and Scott Galea, following their wedding on Aug. 5, 2011. (Photo by Chris Geidner.)]