Straight Allies Ready to Celebrate Same-Sex Marriage
It was just last month that I experienced the most powerful, politically historic moment of my life. By popular vote, Washingtonians approved Referendum 74. The world was watching and got to see good triumph over evil. For once, our real lives played out like the lives of perfect people in perfectly scripted movies where nothing goes wrong and everyone gets what they were looking for in the end. Love won. Hate lost. And I had a part in making that happen. And I am forever changed by it all.
On Dec. 6, at exactly 12:01 a.m., Washington state will issue the first marriage license to a same-sex couple. You bet your ass I'll be there! But not for the reasons one might think. I'm not getting married. In fact, I don't even have a significant other at the moment. I'm 25, heterosexual and a bachelor, and totally OK with that. I will be there to support my friends and strangers alike, as a straight ally who wants to marvel at what we've managed to do. I wouldn't miss it for the world.
It was our burden to bear because for far too long we had put the weight of inequality on your shoulders. I know I wasn't alone in thinking, "We have got to help right this wrong." I know because the proof was in the numbers. Straight allies played a huge role in this election by phone banking, donating money, registering people to vote or ringing doorbells to spread the word that inequality would not be tolerated.
Gov.-Elect Jay Inslee (D-WA) has been a supporter of same-sex marriage from the beginning. In fact, he supported a federal measure that sought to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
"Everyone has the right to marry whomever they choose," Inslee said. "I think history will honor the people of Washington for voting to affirm marriage equality for all."
On Dec. 9, three days after the first marriage licenses have been issued, same-sex couples will be able to hold marriage ceremonies in what Inslee described as a "special day not only for the couples getting married but for the entire state."
Inslee recalled his own wedding, sharing with me his memories of marrying his wife, Trudi, 40 years ago. "We are overjoyed that so many people will get to share that feeling this month," he said.
’Justice Is What Love Looks Like in Public’
The Rev. Brandon Duran, pastor of the Plymouth Church, Seattle United Church of Christ, is part of a group of faith-based straight allies who, because they were willing to speak out in support of same-sex marriage, watched as voters reaffirmed what they already knew: when one is oppressed, no one is free.
Duran said that his motivation to support the issue was simple: love. "Justice is what love looks like in public," he told EDGE.
Duran, who spoke at the Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) March for Marriage Approve R-74 rally, said he believes that marriage is about love, "Not just any kind of love, but tangible, real love."
According to Duran, who quotes 1 John, chapter 4:16, "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him."
Like those of President Barack Obama, and even Gov. Chris Gregoire, Duran’s views on same-sex marriage evolved.
"Over the years I heard stories of pain and hurt from friends and family members, and they would talk about how they felt bias and prejudice directed at them. As I listened to friends and family, I began to be open to listening to strangers’ stories," said Duran, who added that this is when a change occurred within him. "When you listen with a heart that open, change will inevitably happen."
"I’m going to feel much closer to freedom," he said. "When anyone gets closer to freedom, we all get to celebrate."
You can expect to see Duran at the King County Administration building Dec. 6-9 -- except on Sunday, when he will be at the church, he said.
"I’m convinced there are members of God everywhere, when same-sex couples can vow their love, it’s a win for equal rights, a celebration of love and a glimpse of the divine," Duran said. He said he is "ecstatic" about the upcoming nuptials between same-sex partners.
’The Idea That Everyone Is Not Treated Equal Gets Under My Skin’
Barbie Humphrey, owner of Purr Cocktail Lounge and dedicated straight ally and leader in the community, told me that when the first license is issued to a same-sex couple, "that sense of accomplishment will become tactile; the beauty of the ideology of equality will become visible."
Humphrey said she and some friends plan to celebrate, but not for the "newly accepted view of equality," because she knows that they’ve "intrinsically and truthfully always been equal."
"We will celebrate the fact that we have shown the world a better way," she said, triumphantly.
Humphrey is well-known throughout Seattle’s LGBTQ community, especially among the gay sports team leagues she’s proud of sponsoring. She believes in equal rights "because it’s the right thing to do."
"The idea that everyone is not treated equal gets under my skin," Humphrey said. Inequality has never really made sense to her because "at the end of the day we are all human, anyway."
During our conversation, Humphrey spoke of an uncle who died just before Purr was about to open, seven years ago. "My uncle came out as gay at 70. He lived his whole life in the closet and finally decided to come out and live life for himself," she said.
Although he died several years later, at least he finally found happiness, she said.
"Life is too short," Humphrey said. "Don’t wait until you’re 70 to live it."
Most of all, Humphrey said, she is proud to live in a state that respects everyone, including her friends, family, neighbors and employees.
’I Could Not Remain Silent About My Support’
After moving to Seattle from Las Vegas in mid-2011, Dru Dinero got immersed into the LGBTQ epicenter: Capitol Hill.
"I was a newcomer, a stranger to the gay community," he told EDGE.
Dinero admits this was a group he didn’t know much about. As he began to, "laugh, eat, drink, travel with and work alongside the gays," his perspective changed and he "grew as an individual."
Dinero said he began to work with Social Outreach Seattle to campaign for the Approval of Referendum 74, "to repay my friends for their acceptance and hospitality."
"This notion came over me not out of obligation, but out of knowing that this was the right thing to do, and the cause had fallen on my lap," said Dinero, who is 23. "I could not remain silent about my support. I fought for my friends, just as I know they would fight for me."
On Election Day, Dinero told me he felt a true sense of accomplishment.
"This wasn’t a victory over some particular group. What we accomplished in Washington State was to show the world that, as a collective, equality is something we can all agree on," he said. "All it takes it education and love."
’I Plan to Spend It With Close Friends, Smiling And Celebrating’
I’m preparing myself, in the same way that some of you are, because Dec. 6 and 9 are going to be emotional for a lot of us. While it may be true that the passage of the marriage-equality bill and the referendum that followed were a high point in my personal and political life, actually seeing same-sex couples line up to get married will be something else altogether.
During the campaign, I was involved in ways I never imagined. The work I did with the video production crew of Social Outreach Seattle is particularly memorable. We produced 20 ads for the Approve R-74 commercial series, for free. I am proud of that body of work because it celebrates the community for who we are, not what the mainstream wants us to be.
In the video I starred in, I was able to bring visibility to a referendum that many people who aren’t gay might not ever have known about. "I’m Coming Out," went on to become the most popular video (viewed by more than 30,000 people). I can’t tell you the number of people who have approached me, even after Election Day, to say, "Hey, you’re that guy in the Approve R-74 video."
In it, I run around town, presumably naked, with a sign that asks people to approve R-74. Not one Seattle monument is spared my bare ass. By adding some humor to an otherwise unfunny topic, viewers get to see me lick the famous red popsicle statue, kiss the Fremont Bridge Troll and add my flavor of bubble gum to the infamous "gum wall" at Post Alley in the Pike Place Market.
The real visual, however, is the metaphor of "coming out." I purposefully wanted the viewer to assume that I am a gay male coming out of the closet. In the end of the ad, the viewer finds out that I am ... "coming out" but that I am a straight ally.
The experience propelled me to where I am now, a 25-year-old program director at a social justice nonprofit. I developed Straight Allies For Equality, or SAFE, as-in: It is now safe to come out in support of all communities.
On Dec. 6, when the first marriage license is issued, I will feel a strong sense of justice and a warming in my heart. I plan to spend it with close friends, smiling and celebrating. Once only motivated by hate and injustices, I am now ultimately motivated by love.
We are going to be all right, I think. We just need to remind ourselves, and those around us to "love the fear out of hate."