Many of us were shocked to open our Sunday papers on August 28 to a lead editorial headlined “GAY MARRIAGE: LET’S COUNT THE VOTES” in which The Seattle Times endorsed marriage for same-sex couples saying, “Public attitudes toward gay marriage are evolving, led by younger generations. In fact, polls now show a majority of Americans support gay marriage… [It will be necessary to] urge gay and lesbian families and their friends, gay or straight, to directly lobby Democrats and Republicans who might be persuaded to vote for marriage fairness. Washington is a live-and-let-live kind of place where people tend to respect others’ rights and privacy. It is time to legalize gay marriage. “
The editorial accompanied an article, titled “Gay marriage? State lawmakers wonder if votes are there,” which began, “Two key Democratic state lawmakers are considering a major push to try and pass a gay-marriage law in Washington next year. Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, gay lawmakers from the 43rd District in Seattle, said they’re in early discussions and have to run the idea by community and legislative leaders. The Legislature convenes in January.”
Seattle is a great place to live with a dynamic LGBT community and my district, Murray and Pedersen’s 43rd is one of the most accepting live-and-let-live kind of places in Washington state. I’ve wanted to marry my partner of almost 34 years for a long time, so I was very pleased that The Seattle Times, a conservative paper when we relocated here 15 years ago, agrees that we should be able to marry in the city and state where we live.
Here in Washington State we have the right to register as domestic partners – it was granted to us in 2009 by Senate Bill 5688, a law extending the rights and obligations of domestic partnership in Washington and signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire on May 18, 2009. Protect Marriage Washington attempted to overturn the act through a statewide referendum, but the bill was approved by the voters by a 53% to 47% margin. This marked the first time in the United States that voters had approved a state-wide ballot measure that extended LGBT relationship rights. The bill which has been called the Everything BUT Marriage Act, the emphasis on but is mine, went into effect the day the election was certified, December 3, 2009, and my partner John and I along with hundreds of other same-sex couples registered shortly thereafter. As I write this, there are 9,207 domestic partnerships registered in Washington state; most of them are same-sex couples. This is not our first domestic partnership nor will it be our first marriage when Washington State legalizes marriage equality.
I have loved the man I live with almost from the first time I set eyes on him in Chicago on December 8, 1977. We held our own ceremony shortly thereafter; we exchanged ancient coins instead of rings – we wear them still. In 1978, John was in the hospital overnight and I lied, saying that I was his brother so that I could visit him. Cook County didn’t recognize domestic partnership until 2003.
In 1988 we moved to San Clemente, California. In 1992 we were the 19th couple to register as domestic partners in Laguna Beach where John worked, 14 miles away. Our relationship was recognized when he was at work or if we went there to swim or for dinner, but not when we were at home.
In 1993 we were married in a mass ceremony by Troy Perry at the March on Washington – that marriage wasn’t legally recognized anywhere. In 2003 we were married in Vancouver, B.C. We remain married when we visit Canada, but it is not recognized when we cross the border. In 2007 we registered as domestic partners in Seattle. That relationship was sanctioned within the city limits, but not when we left town. And our present state-sanctioned partnership is recognized within the state when we leave town and when we travel into some, but not the majority of states.
There are lots of reasons I want to get married, and none of them are because I am gay. I don’t want a gay marriage. I don’t want a different kind of marriage; I want the same kind of marriage as my married neighbors have. I want a marriage with all the rights and privileges and responsibilities that everyone else who is married has. I am told there are 1,138 benefits that federally recognized marriage would bring us, and I would like those, too.
But most of all, I want to marry the man I have loved for almost 34 years – a real marriage legally recognized everywhere we go.
Stuart Wilber (photo, right) lives in Seattle with his partner. He promises not to destroy anyone else’s marriage and will be happy to accept the blame for earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods and other natural disasters that might befall us when they are permitted to marry.
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