Yesterday's momentous and historic marriage of my friends Dave Bieniek and Ervin Knezek, at Freeland's Trinity Lutheran Church by the Rev. Jim Lindus, brought back to me one of the most exciting and meaningful times of the whole Marriage Equality campaign, the Town Hall meeting with Senator Mary Margaret Haugen of District 10, who had come to Whidbey to listen to her constituents about the issues that concerned them.
The hall was packed for the 2 p.m. Saturday meeting, about a year ago, and early topics included education, ferry policies, budgetary issues. But the hall's occupants were largely gay and lesbian citizens who had come to ask her to be the 25th "yes" vote on legislation before the Senate which would give all loving couples the right to marry, regardless of gender.
I had scribbled a few notes because it felt important, as the UU minister in town, to make a religious statement about the issue. I didn't know if there would be detractors or other ministers opposing marriage equality, but I wanted to support my friends in the gay/lesbian community. So when the topic arose, I asked to be recognized and stood to speak. The response from the gathered body was unexpected and gratifying. See the video here: http://www.streamica.com/#v/p2pD1W9uVbg
Senator Haugen, later in the legislative session, did become the 25th senator to sign onto the legislation, which became law, was challenged, survived a referendum vote in November 2012, and became Washington State Law.
Yesterday, at the wedding, I sat in tears remembering the long years of hard work by the Religious Coalition for Equality, of which I was a charter member, Equal Rights Washington, Pride Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, Washington United for Marriage, PFLAG and others. We managed to get legislation okaying domestic partnerships, increasing those initial benefits to full-marriage-type benefits, and then to a bill signed by our governor Chris Gregoire authorizing marriage equality in the state. It was, of course, challenged by its opponents, but Referendum 71 passed a state-wide vote in November 2012 and became the law of the state.
So as I sat in the Trinity Sanctuary, my tears were joyful and reverent. The men and women who packed the house yesterday afternoon were there to celebrate Dave and Ervin's marriage, of course, but also to celebrate Hope, hope that perhaps the bad old days of ridicule and shame and secretiveness and fear were receding into the past, that anyone in that room now might have this civil right and privilege to marry the partner they loved so dearly.
I felt pleased that I had been part of this grand design and when the two young women sitting next to me introduced themselves and I spoke my name, they recognized me from the town hall meeting. What a thrill to find that my words that day had meant so much to them, had perhaps turned the tide for Senator Haugen, and had left a lasting impression on Whidbey's bglt community. It made the wonderful day of this marriage even sweeter.
And when Rev. Lindus spoke those final, cementing words "by the power invested in me by the state of Washington, I pronounce you partners for life", the tears on my face were of awe and wonderment that this day had truly arrived.
Now, on to Oregon where the issue of marriage equality will likely be on the ballot in November 2013.