The look of love

The news out of Washington, just north of my home state, has been a delight to watch this week. After finally overthrowing its own mini-DOMA in November, Washington’s government has been preparing for the day when the new law would take effect and it could offer marriage rights to all of its citizens. Marriage licenses were made available on 6 December, with the first weddings occurring on Sunday, 9 December.

Officials of King County (which encompasses Seattle) understood both the historic significance of the moment, and the pent-up demand of its citizens. So instead of making everyone wait until normal business hours on 6 December, they opened their doors at midnight. Couples queued up for hours in advance, surrounded by delighted supporters who were there to cheer them on.

The very first license was collected by Jane Abbott Lighty (left) and Petee Petersen. They’ve been together for 35 years.

Couple with license

Jane and Petee are getting married on Sunday in a ceremony including the Seattle Men’s Chorus, and I bet I’m not the only totally unrelated person wishing I could be there to witness it.

Hundreds of other couples are also trying to get married on Sunday, in order to wed the very first day they possibly can. Many of them have been together for decades and do not want to wait a minute longer. Seattle’s City Hall had space and time for 80 couples, but those slots were almost immediately booked. After scrambling around a bit, officials announced that they’d found room for another 60 couples — and those slots were snapped up as well.

Then a wonderful thing happened.

Seven King County Superior Court judges and one judicial official offered to come into the courthouse, unpaid, on their day off, to offer their services. They’re working in shifts from midnight until 20:00, with one judge pulling a full night shift from midnight to 7:00 in the morning. Her name? Mary Yu. I am not making that up — it’s simply perfect.

Others in the community have also stepped up to offer space and services, including many churches and the S’Klallam Tribe. Seattle and King County is going to be hopping with weddings this Sunday, and I can’t wait for the flood of photos afterwards. Watching a community so warmly welcome and include members who have been kept outside for so long…what a day.

(Note to my beloved home state: Are you paying attention? Washington is showing you up and making you look like a backwater. You’re not going to let that stand, are you?)

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
This entry was posted in culture, good news, life, politics, USA. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The look of love

  1. Inge says:

    I had to look up DOMA because it sounds doomy… it is apparently. Quote wiki: “Under the law, no U.S. state or political subdivision is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state. Section 3 of DOMA codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, immigration, and the filing of joint tax returns.”

    So even though they can get married in Washington, they really aren’t on the federal level? Is that a correct interpretation? You seem to have a rather complicated judicial system: a state can disagree with federal rules, but that also implies whatever it decides has no meaning anywhere else, right? How can your home-country function like that?

    • oregon expat says:

      That is a completely correct interpretation. There are two things going on in DOMA, the state recognition and the federal. For instance, since Oregon currently does not allow equal marriage, those folks getting married in Washington this Sunday can get in their cars, drive south, and the moment they cross the state border into Oregon, they’re magically not married anymore. In fact, they’d have to head east and cross several states into Iowa before they’d be married again. This situation has already led to tragic situations, when traveling couples are devastated by one of them having an accident or a stroke, and the heart-broken, panicking spouse is not allowed into the hospital room because she or he isn’t considered family in that particular state.

      And yes, those folks in Washington will indeed be considered mere roommates by the US federal government, which leads to all sorts of issues and injustices. It’s a terrible patchwork of laws right now, but also a very familiar one — the same thing happened not too long ago with interracial marriage. That mess went on for decades until the Supreme Court finally stepped in, and that’s what it will take this time, too.

      We’ve also got the situation right now where some states have legalized medical marijuana, and two others have legalized marijuana possession outright (without having to hold a medical marijuana card), yet the federal government still considers marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, right alongside heroin and LSD. This has led to medical marijuana dispensaries, which are complying with all of their state laws and operating a completely legal business, being raided by federal law enforcement and prosecuted.

      How does my nation function like that? Not very well, to be honest. Our patchwork laws have made for many terrible stories. But in the end, it usually does work out right. It just takes decades to get there, and many people are hurt along the way.

      • Inge says:

        Wow, that is complicated. Here there is the basic principle that a law from a lower level may never contradict a higher-level law. If it does (for some weird reason) it doesn’t count.

        Still.. How does a human being (that has vowed to help people and not do harm) stop partners from being there for the other. How can they explain that, even to themselves? It sounds so .. strange. As to the federal level.. sorry i just don’t get that your home-country isn’t leading the way… it is loosing so much of its credibility as a leader-country. (to be honest, not just because of this)

        Our prime-minister is a gay man.. it wasn’t even important in the elections. His stance on where to go with the country all the more. Isn’t that how we should judge people.. on what they actually do instead of who they are? .. I’m going to stop now, before i go off on a tangent.

        So… good for Washington!

        • oregon expat says:

          Here there is the basic principle that a law from a lower level may never contradict a higher-level law.

          Hm. In light of this, my statement that the US patchwork doesn’t function very well might need a rephrase. Because our federal government is always less progressive than the more liberal states (but more progressive than the “we liked the 19th century” states), it is invariably those states that yank the federal law into the future, either by example or by direct legal challenge. Without their influence, the federal laws would take decades longer to come around.

          • Inge says:

            Wellll… shouldn’t the parliament and senate take care of that? They do propose laws, don’t they? If a significant part of them vote X, X will become a law?

          • oregon expat says:

            Sorry, late responding to this — yes, the House of Representatives and the Senate do propose and vote in laws. But they are just as mixed a bunch as the states are, so progressive bills (bill = a proposed law) often die a quick and/or painful death, sometimes without even being allowed to come to a vote.

            Also, I forgot to mention that in theory, federal law does trump state law. But in practice, the federal government can choose not to enforce a law if it believes that law to be unconstitutional or unenforceable. We have a recent example of this with the Obama administration, which chose not to enforce DOMA or defend it in the courts. Instead, a Republican-led group from the House of Representatives has been trying to defend DOMA in the courts. We’re about to see how well that’s working out, since the Supreme Court has just opted to rule on a DOMA case.

  2. Ana_ñ says:

    Congratulations! Tolerance and respect prevailed in Washington, setting an example and smoothing the path for the others behind. One step at a time. This community makes the world a bit better.
    And congratulations to all the soon-to-be-married! 🙂

  3. Hick Crone says:

    In retrospect, Basic Rights Oregon probably miscalculated in their 2012 election season strategy choices. As I understand it, they decided it was too soon to ask Oregonians to undo our unfortunate amendment. I really wonder what the result would have been had repeal been on the ballot. I like to think it would have shown we’ve a majority of compassionate grown-ups now.

  4. Redhorse says:

    One possible ray of hope for national change in the US. Today the supreme court has agreed to hear 2 cases related to same sex marraige rights. One challenge is directly on DOMA in wich a woman filed complaint that she had to pay excesive estate taxes when her wife died because the federal goverment did not recognize her state approved marraige. She claims (and has a good case!) that because of the discrepency in federal and state law she does not have equal rights or protection as gaurenteed by the constituion. The other case involves California whos state goverment passed same sex marraige, then oponents were able to get the issue on the ballot and overturn that law making same sex marraige invalid. This means for a short time you could marry, and then the right was taken away. Two lower courts have rulled against this, saying it is discriminatory. Right wing religious zelots keep pumping money and rhetoric into the fight, so now it goes to the supreme court. Decisions on these cases probally wont be made until June 2013 and even if they rule in favor of gay marriage change wont happen imeadiatly because it will take time to get the states to go along with it.

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