Washington state’s “I do” on Referendum 74 made history Tuesday. Along with similar measures in Maine and Maryland, it was the first time voters approved same-sex marriage.
Three days after Washington’s new law goes into effect on Dec. 6, gay and lesbian couples can legally marry with all the benefits and rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Some will wait for a spring or summer wedding, but many will rush to the altar in December – a reflection of years, even decades of pent-up demand.
The ripples from the new law will affect churches, businesses, the military and the couples themselves in the months and years to come.
54 YEARS LATER
John McCluskey knows the exact date when he met his partner, Rudy Henry: Dec. 31, 1958.
Now, almost 54 years after that New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco, the pair soon will be able to get legally married.
It has been a long time coming for the Tacoma couple.
“I would have wanted to get married by the end of 1959,” said McCluskey, 76, as he reflected on what life would have been like had same-sex marriage been legal in those days. But, “after we had been together 35 or 40 years we pretty much felt married.”
McCluskey and Henry, 78, will get married Dec. 15, but they don’t know any of the details. The wedding for the couple, well-known and much respected in the gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender community, is being put on by volunteers within that community.
Henry is recovering from a stroke and complications after a surgery and requires almost full-time care from McCluskey and others.
McCluskey is looking forward to no longer having to show his domestic partnership card to doctors and nurses and other health care providers when he takes Henry to a medical appointment.
“Almost without exception, we’ve had to explain what that means,” he said.
“Why haven’t you gotten married?”
That’s the question Heather Kawamoto, 38, and partner Kay Lancaster, 51, often get from their 9-year-old daughter, Kayleigh.
The Tacoma couple have been together for 14 years and are registered as domestic partners but have never had a ceremony or gotten married in another state.
“We have always agreed that we wanted to wait until it was legal in our home state,” Kawamoto said. “We didn’t want to go to Canada or New York.”
Though Kawamoto spent “every waking hour outside of work” volunteering at a phone bank and canvassing for R-74 during the two weeks before the election, she and Lancaster didn’t want to make wedding plans until they knew it would pass.
Now, the couple plan on getting a marriage license and having a small ceremony as soon as they can in December.
Though the couple want to have a big summer to-do, the December ceremony is for the benefit of Kawamoto’s father, who is in poor health. She wants him to walk her down the aisle.
“I don’t want to miss that chance,” she said. “It might not be the grand wedding we wanted to do, but for him to be there is more important than having a full wedding/party.”
But beyond the ceremony and the legal benefits marriage will bring, Kawamoto said it’s their daughter who will benefit the most.
“When I think about marriage I think about love, I think about commitment, I think about family,” she said. “We are raising Kayleigh with those same values. As a mother, I want her to know that her family is represented in the community as worthy of having those same social values.”
In August, The News Tribune profiled the wedding of Pablo Monroy, 24, and Derrick Peacock, 25. The two Tacoma men had an elaborate ceremony with friends and family on Aug. 11 in Port Orchard.
“We are engaged again. This is awesome,” Monroy said after R-74 passed Tuesday.
Two weeks after their wedding, the two registered as domestic partners. As soon as possible, they will obtain a marriage license and in December have a small ceremony. Peacock also will change his last name to Monroy.
Monroy is a cavalry scout with the Army National Guard and will deploy overseas next year. The military does not recognize same-sex marriage, but his commanders have been supportive, he said.
He will occupy a limbo status of being neither single nor married, he said.
How will the law established by Referendum 74 work?
• Same-sex couples can apply for marriage licenses starting Dec. 6.
• If same-sex couples are in registered domestic partnerships, the partnership ends if the couple marries.
• If same-sex couples in a registered domestic partnership do not get married, their partnership will automatically convert to marriage on June 20, 2014.
• Domestic partnerships will continue for couples in which at least one member is 62 or older. Such partnerships will not automatically convert to marriage.
• For more information, go to bit.ly/SU9PgICraig Sailor: 253-597-8541 craig.sailor@ thenewstribune.com Source: The GLBT Bar Association of Washington