Yesterday was Election Day 2012. My partner and I attended the election viewing party at the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle. It was hot, crowded and noisy in the ballroom where huge TV screens displayed the news. People greeted each with a shared excitement and expectation. Strangers were suddenly friends sharing the experience of this historic night
A joyous roar exploded when Obama was declared the winner, and we were jubilant when Romney conceded the race. I shed tears of relief with the man standing next to me, strangers brought together by shared emotion. Such was the delight in experiencing the democractic process in which the USA excels.
But, for us the real victory of the night was the passage of Referendum 74, which legalizes marriage equality in Washington State. This has taken years to achieve and marks not only a profound step forward for Washingtonians, but for the entire country.
But I am not a pundit, historian or political analyst and I will let those with more insight comment on the larger picture.
My partner and I have been together for 20 years. We have been active in all the efforts in Washington state to protect civil and human rights for all. Last night belonged to us and we were asked repeatedly by friends, family, acquaintances and the press, what this victory means to us.
We were there in 1993 when the City of Seattle allowed a “domestic partner registration” and as we signed those documents, they made great pains to assure us that it meant nothing, absolutely nothing. But to us it was a start.
We were there in June 2007 when the state allowed domestic partnership status, the “everything but marriage” designation. We were there in our state capitol in February of this year as our governor, Christine Gregoire, signed marriage equality into law. We were there when opponents, Preserve Marriage Washington, delivered enough signatures to challenge the newly signed law. And we were there last night, when Referndum74 was approved.
So what does this mean for us?
For the man I met who told me about his twin boys ,it means he now can move beyond fighting for recognition and concentrate on being a father. For the older lesbian couple that we’ve met in passing, it means that years of denying their relationship are over. For the young man and his boyfriend who spontaneously hugged us, it means that the bullying they endured in high school no longer stings their souls. For activists from labor unions, legal groups, and religious communities, it means that their hard work, blood, sweat and tears - lots of tears- had just paid off.
For my partner and I, or I should say my future wife, it means that we can now legally honor our long relationship. It means that there is official recognition of our love, commitment and support of each other. It means we no longer have to say we are partners and hear the response: “Oh really? What business are you in?”
But most of all, it means we can answer our eight and six year old granddaughters’ questions: Why can’t our Grammies get married? Why would people not want to let you marry? And, more importantly, what will you wear at your wedding? Can I be the flower girl? Can I be the ring bearer?
We want them to know that barriers will continue to be broken, taboos exposed, and progress made. The young, like our granddaughters and their generation will continue to ask provocative questions and create answers where they find none.
And that is what it means for us all.