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Feb 2004 | Massachusetts: State of Our Union

Feb 2004 | Massachusetts: State of Our Union

The Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown, the narrow strip of land at the tip of Cape Cod, Mass., before sailing to Plymouth Rock. This quaint enclave of gay men, lesbians, artists, writers, Portuguese fishermen, tourists, and old-money New Englanders is now bracing for an entirely different kind of pilgrimage brought on by theMassachusetts supreme judicial court's ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

"Businesses are gearing up for May 17, which is the first date someone could hold a [same-sex] marriage ceremony in Massachusetts," Provincetown Tourism Director Patricia Fitzpatrick told The Out Traveler. "Catering companies are advertising. Local restaurants and bars are putting signs in their windows saying HAVE YOUR RECEPTION HERE." According to Fitzpatrick, over 100 civil unions are already registered in Provincetown annually, so the recent ruling is expected to have wide-ranging impact. The Provincetown Banner reported that on the day of the court's ruling, town clerk Greta Holman fielded dozens of calls from gay and lesbian couples wondering if they might apply for a marriage license.

While the state legislature has until May to decide how to handle the ruling, seasonal visitors will tell you that now is the time to start planning for your summer escape to this unique destination. P-town, as it's familiarly known, has a history of embracing the outsider; it's a town with an overwhelmingly lesbian and gay year-round populace, and its history is steeped in offbeat culture and Americana. What better place to propose to your partner or take your vows?

Two equally exciting ways to arrive in Provincetown are by sea and by air. Bay State Cruises and Boston Harbor Cruises offer high-speed ferry service from Boston and depart from terminals just a short cab ride from Logan International Airport. En route to the cape, you may even spot a breaching humpback whale. The other, more expensive option is to take a 25-minute flight aboard one of Cape Air's nine-seat Cessna planes.

Many people rent homes in Provincetown, but there are also dozens of excellent hotels and B&Bs. The recently renovated Anchor Inn, with its spacious front porch and ocean views, is steps from the center of town. Crowne Pointe is a converted sea captain's mansion built at the turn of the 19th century. Two other excellent choices are the Brass Key Guesthouse, a cozy spot in the center of town, and Land's End Inn, an artsy tree house-like fortress perched atop a hill at the far west end with spectacular, nearly 360-degree views. Lesbians may opt for the girl-owned Gabriel's and its two hot tubs.

A perfect day might start with brunch at the Caf? Edwige, followed by a morning bike ride (bikes can be rented at Ptown Bikes) on trails winding through the sand dunes. The Cape Cod National Seashore remains raw, rugged, and stunning. Ride to Race Point Beach with a blanket and scrumptious picnic lunch from Relish, a great deli at the west end of town. During the off-season you may have the beach to yourself.

Back in town for some shopping, you'll most certainly pass the enormous white Unitarian Universalist church, where many gays and lesbians choose to have their commitment ceremonies. You might also visit the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum--according to Fitzpatrick, the grounds are by far the favorite locale for couples tying the knot.

If you're inclined to have a late-afternoon cocktail and high-energy moment, check out the tea dance at the Boatslip, or head to the West End Salon for a massage. Those wishing to take advantage of the gorgeous sunsets at Herring Cove Beach (one of the few places on the East Coast where you can watch the sun set over the water) can discreetly smuggle a bottle of champagne in a backpack and share a romantic moment (or even "pop" the question).

Friday evenings in summer, art galleries along Commercial Street's east end have regular openings. For an intimate supper, there are two obvious choices: Front Street, a cozy, literally underground bistro with an ever-changing menu; or The Red Inn, an elegant west-end eatery with views of the silvery tides. If dancing is on the agenda, hit the Atlantic House (A-House). It's a nightclub that's been around for years (and looks it). The real party boys go to Summer Camp at the Crown & Anchor in high season, but the A-House is a year-round treat.

The Bay State has plenty of alternative gay-friendly destinations. Northampton (or Noho, as many people call it) is known for its tree-lined streets and intellectual community. Newsweek dubbed Northampton "Lesbianville, U.S.A." because of its huge girl contingent, as well as being the home of all-female Seven Sister holdout Smith College. Near Boston, liberal Cambridge and Somerville are eager to have gay-marriage laws enacted. And Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket have always welcomed gay travelers. If P-town has its way, however, Fitzpatrick believes the community will become "the same-sex wedding capital" of Massachusetts.

--Andy Towle

Massachusetts might just be the most gay-friendly state in the nation now. Enjoy these activities and welcoming businesses.

? Bay State Cruise Co.
? Boston Harbor Cruises
? Cape Air
? Crown Pointe Historic Inn
? Brass Key Guesthouse
? Land's End Inn
? Atlantic Bay Real Estate
? Ptown Bikes
? Boatslip
? West End Salon
? Front Street Restaurant
? Red Inn
? Atlantic House
? Northampton, Mass., Traveler Site

The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. We suggest that you confirm all details directly with the establishments mentioned before making travel plans. Please feel free to e-mail us at update@outtraveler.com if you have any new information.


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