If five years ago somebody had told Paul Kujawski, a Polish kid who grew up in this central Massachusetts mill town, that he'd vote to allow two men to marry, he would have laughed in their face.
But when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that gay men and lesbians could marry, state Rep. Paul Kujawski of Webster and the other 199 members of the Massachusetts legislature had to make the same decision California will face in November: Should a state constitution be rewritten not just to prevent gay marriages - but to potentially undo existing unions?
A kid who grew up over a family meat market that served the old-world Poles, French Canadians, Italians and Irish who made shoes and textiles in Webster's squat brick factory buildings, in a town where you grew up attending Mass under the steeples on the hillside, Kujawski knew exactly what to think:
Marriage was a man and a woman, a bride and a groom, an Adam and an Eve.
When a former baseball teammate asked Kujawski to meet with a group of people from his church who favored gay marriage, the legislator went only as a favor.
"You can talk to me until you're blue in the face, until hell freezes over," Kujawski said. "I'm not changing."
Kujawski wasn't much swayed by the rational, legalistic arguments for gay marriage. But then Debbie Grzyb and Sharon Murphy, two women sitting among the dozen people in the room who Kujawski hadn't even realized were a couple, told their story.
Middle-aged women who had lived closeted lives for the 24 years they had been together, Grzyb and Murphy married in 2004, and only came out to their families then. Feeling apprehensive about revealing their lives to someone who they believed would be hostile, they explained what marriage had meant to them.
"Our families started treating us as a real couple," Murphy said. "It was real; it wasn't make-believe anymore."
He came to a new understanding: Murphy and Grzyb weren't really different from other married couples, at least not in the ways that count.
"I understood," Kujawski said of the moment, "that in reality, what we were doing was allowing people to live their lives as they should."
He sighed. "In three years, I tried to put into its proper perspective how on Earth would (gay marriage) change my life. It didn't. I came to the reality of how many lives were enhanced by it, and you had to say to yourself that it would be wrong to take this privilege away."
His vote did cost him a few friends, however, and made his mother unhappy. To read more about the fallout and the stubborn refusal by some to accept this law in Massachusetts click here.