In the recent election, Washington legalised gay marriage. There’s a slight delay built in to such things to give the relevant agencies time to prepare, so the first weddings took place this past weekend. Judge Mary Yu opened up the county courthouse at the stroke of midnight on Saturday, and City Hall was turned into the venue for 140 of the most public wedding ceremonies through the day on Sunday. Seattle responded with a little bit of apologising:
but mostly a lot of cheering and celebrating. We even had a band:
Before I attempt to say anything about what this all means, enjoy some more photos of the newlyweds:
And their families:
I will admit that I was particularly moved by seeing some of the older couples, like these two:
I guess in part just because I’m used to weddings being between people younger than I now am, but mainly because of an awareness of all that they’ve seen. One couple had had t-shirts made saying “21 years and counting”, and another were announced as being “married after 33 years together”. I couldn’t help thinking about what a hostile world they would have first met in, and how much it has changed. In case that wasn’t enough, there was at least one military couple:
Photo by City of Seattle
Just last year, those two weren’t even allowed to admit that they were gay at work.
It does me a lot of good to remember that sometimes there is progress, and sometimes it happens that quickly. Melinda and I were engaged for longer than those two have been allowed to ‘admit’ to their coworkers that they love each other.
At the same time, we do all need to remember that this thing isn’t finished. Federal law still not only doesn’t recognise these couples as really married, but actively prohibits us from treating their marriages as real. And at least as important, outside of cosy little bubbles like Seattle there is still the prevailing atmosphere of homophobia that allows that federal law to still exist, made it politically risky for Obama to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell last year, and continues to make life hell for many gay people.
The institution of marriage isn’t going to magically fix these things, and nor is it even going to be relevant in every gay person’s life. I think it does help, though, in an indirect but important way. What we saw yesterday was not only a beautiful thing that, but also a lovely snapshot of diversity within the gay community. There were couples walking down those steps so stereotypical that anyone would immediately pick them out as gay, but there were also plenty who don’t fit that stereotype. Plenty of different sorts of families, all doing something that straight monogamous people have always been able to take for granted. I think this is what the most motivated opponents of gay marriage have really been afraid of, and what we should celebrate: this is a huge step in convincing society that gay people are just as normal and just as diverse as the rest of us, and not some ‘other’ that must be feared and kept away.