These 3 New Englanders were Jill Biden’s guests at the State of the Union

The First Lady invited Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith from Northampton, and Doug Griffin from Newton, Rhode Island.

First Lady Jill Biden stands next to Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff in front of her guests Doug Griffin (top row, second from the left) and Heidi and Gina Nortonsmith (top row, first and second from the right). Photo by Jim Watson / AFP

First Lady Jill Biden invited three New Englanders to this year’s State of the Union address: Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith from Northampton and Doug Griffin from Newton, Rhode Island.

The Nortonsmiths, who helped lead the fight for same-sex marriage equality, and Griffin, whose 20-year-old daughter passed away from a fentanyl overdose were invited to President Biden’s second State of the Union. During his speech, Biden discussed LGBTQ rights and drug prevention legislation.

The Nortonsmiths led the fight in Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriage in the early 2000s, as one of seven couples to sue the Commonwealth for the right to marry in 2001.


“The Nortonsmiths’ advocacy work as plaintiffs in Goodridge vs. MA Dept. of Public Health led to their state becoming the first in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage,” the White House said in a statement. “They celebrated this victory by getting married on the first day that same-sex marriage licenses were issued in Massachusetts in 2004.”

The Nortonsmiths spoke at the White House this past December after the passing of the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages. 

Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith arrive to speak during a bill signing ceremony for the Respect for Marriage Act, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.
Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

The First Lady’s third New England guest was Doug Griffin, who lost his 20-year-old daughter, Courtney, in 2014 to a fentanyl overdose. Griffin wrote a letter to the President and the First Lady in 2021 “to share his family’s painful journey.”

Biden discussed Griffin’s story and how in the wake of his daughter’s death, “their family turned pain into purpose,” advocating for greater drug restrictions. Biden echoed Griffin’s message, urging legislators to take action against fentanyl production and trafficking.

“Doug we are with you,” Biden said. “Fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans a year. Let’s launch a major surge to stop fentanyl production, sale, and trafficking, with more drug detection machines to inspect cargo and stop pills and powder at the border.”

The First Lady also invited Paul Pelosi, U2 singer Bono, and Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the mass shooter at the Monterey Park Lunar New Year celebrations.


Additionally, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley invited Jaqueline Sanchesan early educator from Mattapan. Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey was also in attendance, courtesy of an invite from Massachusetts representative Richard Neal. 

Watch President Biden’s second State of the Union address here.


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