I vividly remember the first time it occurred to me that not everyone accepted gay couples the way my family did.
It was in middle school. I had caught a ride home from some sports practice with a friend, and we had just discovered that her mom distantly knew the family friend babysitting for my brother and me that night. That babysitter was half of a lesbian couple.
The mother asked about Laura. I remember telling her that Laura lived with her friend Katie; they were “together,” I said. The mother started. My brain whirred and I quickly backtracked, although I didn’t understand why. “Oh no, they’re just friends!” I assured her. Then, quietly, curiously, I added, “But… why would that be… bad if they weren’t?”
The vote to approve Referendum 74 in Washington this November is bigger than just one couple. It’s bigger than our state. This would be the first time that voters would have approved or maintained marriage equality in the nation.
Furthermore, Washington’s victory could be considered more important than a victory in any of the other states taking gay marriage to a vote this fall. The opposition wants to stabilize our “gay blue corner,” as Jody Waits from the Pride Foundation called it. Our governor has publicly supported gay marriage, our senators are also pro marriage equality and we are just too close to the similarly liberal Oregon and California. Waits continued that if the opposition stops this Referendum from being approved, they have the opportunity to shape the conversation of equality in our region and across the country.
In the next 18 months, it is almost guaranteed that a marriage equality case will reach the Supreme Court. Presently, no state west of Iowa has secured marriage equality. Furthermore, all marriage equality rights that have been gained so far are by legislative or judicial action, not by a popular vote. The Supreme Court can’t realistically look at those statistics and believe that marriage equality is what all of America wants and needs, even when polling reports otherwise. The votes have to match the polls.
We all know a couple. Mine is Laura and Katie, two of the amazing people I know. They brought me to my first real concert, The Indigo Girls; they continually showed interest in my life; they made the effort to attend one of my choir concerts with their adorable squirming twin toddlers in tow. I grew up with them close by and I never second-guessed their right to be together.
Laura and Katie met fourteen years ago in Washington, D.C. and the way they tell it they knew quickly that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. A few weeks after they became engaged, they found out that San Francisco, Katie’s hometown, was issuing marriage licenses.
They have had three weddings total. Their first one in San Francisco was annulled two months later. I went to their second wedding as a young girl, and I still remember the dresses vividly and playing with Katie’s darling toddler niece. Yet regardless of my vivid memory, the fact remains that wedding doesn’t stand either because gay marriage is not yet legal in Washington.
In fact, only their third wedding stands and even then, it’s only legal in California. They have a beautiful set of twins that just entered kindergarten, they combine their incomes, they share a house. How are they any less married than anyone else?
In Washington, they aren’t married at all.
“A domestic partnership is not enough. I want to be able to tell my kids that I am married; not married* with an asterisk or ‘married’ in quotations,” Katie shared at a party for marriage equality held in Seattle on Oct. 7.
Currently polls concerning Referendum 74 reflect 51-percent approval and 49-percent rejection statewide. King County, an arguably liberal area, only shows 60-percent approval. About 6 percent of voters remain undecided in this debate. These voters are often parents of young children who want the world to be fair and safe.
The opposition knows this too and plans their strategy accordingly. In other states, their ads have been brutal and pivotal turning points at the polls. Previous commercials have suggested that marriage equality will do damage to businesses, schools and religious communities. Realistically, these are preposterous lies: just glance at www.marriagefactcheck.org.
An approval of marriage equality in Washington would likely change the national discussion of marriage equality rights. But this isn’t just a political battle, this is a civil rights movement for the history books. This is, arguably, inevitable.
This summer, I attended a student leadership camp where we were asked a series of questions as a group and based on our answer, we silently moved to a specific side of the room. When our advisor asked if we had grown up in a house based on faith, two-thirds of the room stood on the side that said yes. A few questions later, our advisor asked if we believed in marriage equality. Every single student stood proudly on one side of the room.
It’s coming, and it’s coming whether some of us disagree with it or not, because the fact remains that we are dealing with lives and loves of people that we know and don’t know. Children of faith are beginning to look beyond what they hear from adults of faith and make their own decisions; many churches actually have grown to support marriage equality themselves. In 10years, marriage probably won’t even be a major legal argument, if it’s an argument at all.
But they don’t want to wait 10 years. These people deserve their freedom to legally marry who they love right now.
We all know a couple. It may not mean that much to you, but you can’t imagine how much that freedom would mean to them.
Caitlin Plummer, a senior at Meadowdale High School and co-editor of Meadowdale’s newspaper, The Maverick, enjoys writing about a broad range of topics that are on her mind. She was born in Lynnwood and lives there with her parents, her younger brother and her golden retriever, Cinnamon. Her future aspirations include earning a degree in journalism and writing for a major news source.