One step forward; two steps back

Posted on 12 Oct 2009 at 3:47pm
By Leslie Robinson LesARobinson@gmail.com
A TIME TO CELEBRATE | Charlene Strong, right, reacts with friends Kris Kucera, center, and Catherine Loukas at an Election Night party for supporters of Referendum 71, Tuesday, Nov. 3. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

As the citizens veto same-sex marriage in Maine, this Washington state couple gets ready to enjoy their domestically partnered bliss. It’s enough to give you whiplash
My girlfriend Anne and I reached the point in our relationship where we wanted to make it official.

Also, her employer wanted proof that she and I are really a couple and she hadn’t put me on her insurance because I looked pretty.

Here in the state of Washington same-sex marriage is illegal, so making it official means domestic partnership. We filled out the requisite forms and had them notarized. I deposited the envelope with the documents into a mailbox — on Election Day.

I don’t know if it was an act of whimsy or masochism.

As you’ve likely heard, Washington was voting on whether to expand the domestic partnership law. Anne and I didn’t know, when we submitted the papers, whether we would be receiving some of the rights of domestic partnership or all of them.
It was like buying a grab bag at the dollar store.

Anne goes crazy when she reads exactly what I just wrote, that the vote was over whether to expand the state’s domestic partnership law.

In fact, the Legislature had expanded the law earlier this year; scaredy-cat religious conservatives responded by getting Referendum 71 on the ballot, which asked voters whether to approve or reject the Legislature’s action.

There. I’ve explained that the referendum was actually about taking away rights we’d been given. Now Anne will be happy, and there will be peace in my domestically partnered household.

Washington got the domestic partnership ball rolling in 2007, allowing same-sex couples all of 23 rights and responsibilities. In 2008 the Legislature added more than 170 more.

In 2009 it added about 285 rights and responsibilities, bringing domestic partnership level with marriage.

What a peculiar mixture of pride and unease I felt dropping the partnership forms in the mail. Would Anne and I have the rights of 2008 or 2009?

It wouldn’t have surprised me if the cast of "Rocky Horror," dressed in postal uniforms, had jumped out from behind the mailbox to do the "Time Warp."

Our ability to take care of each other was in doubt thanks to a campaign led by a man on his third marriage, and another man with a history of unpaid taxes who lives in Oregon.
Don’t beam me up, Scotty. Beam them up instead.

With our rights to be decided by the electorate, all Anne and I could do was wait. And wait some more, thanks to Washington’s mostly mail-in ballot system.
Finally it became clear that our side had won, and Anne and I were about to become industrial-strength domestic partners.

In signing off on the "everything but marriage" law, Washington voters became the first in any state to approve a gay-rights ballot measure. The evergreen trees in the Evergreen State should stand a little taller today.

However, we were clearly a state divided.

Every county east of the Cascades rejected expanding the law. In fact, only the counties huddled around Puget Sound voted correctly. Something in the water, indeed.

I don’t know precisely how I would’ve reacted had the outcome been different. I’m not the type to do an interpretive dance around the Space Needle. More likely I’d have spewed a colorful stream while walking the dogs.

I’m filled with sympathy for Mainers devastated by the vote on same-sex marriage in their state. Like us, their state government had passed a law, and reactionary citizenry had reacted with a ballot challenge.

Unlike us, they’d achieved the dizzying height of marriage, so their fall was great.

California, Maine, Washington — each granted rights, only to see some residents try to snatch them back. With all this moving forward and being yanked back, this phase of our struggle calls for a neck brace.

Leslie Robinson is a freelance writer who lives in Washington.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 13, 2009.

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