It’s time for our Legislature to acknowledge full humanity of all residents

August 10, 2011 

Remember Pig Latin? Igpay Atinlay? You can understand it, but you stumble over each word.

When I hear arguments against same-sex marriage, it’s as if the speakers were speaking in Pig Latin. I can understand them, but only if I set aside everything I know about English grammar and spelling.

And their arguments make sense only if I set aside what I know to be the truths that the arguments try to deny.

When I was young, I never saw myself getting married to a man. I was surrounded by examples of good, strong marriages, but I always felt my life was going in a different direction.

As a young adult watching all of my friends getting married, I was content to stand outside the tradition of marriage. The privileges and position it offered didn’t interest me.

But then I met the woman who would become my life partner, my spouse. And I wanted to marry her. I wanted that recognition, the privileges, the responsibility, and yes, the inevitable blenders wrapped as wedding presents.

After our first date, I knew we would change each other’s lives. On our second anniversary, we exchanged inexpensive rings. On our tenth, we went to a local goldsmith and had “real” ones made.

On our 25th, we drove up to Vancouver, B.C., and were married in Stanley Park, with our son as a witness. (When we told him about our plans, he looked at us in astonishment: he thought we were already married.)

When my sister was going through a painful divorce, she told me that she wanted a relationship like the one I have with my partner. It is the highest compliment she has ever paid me.

Some years later, a musician in a group I played with was struggling to understand how I felt about my partner. Suddenly her face lit up. “Oh,” she said, “you love her like I love my husband.”

That was all she needed to know. This deeply religious woman, who evidently knew no other lesbians or gay men, was immediately able to understand the truth about my life.

I tell you these things not to brag, but to illustrate that our relationship, our marriage, is strong and stable, based on a profound love, and lived in a way that others respect.

Recent census data analyzed by The Seattle Times show that about 1 in every 61 households – over 24,000 households – in Washington is a same-sex couple, up 50 percent from 10 years ago. The data also show that the increase in couples happened more in suburbs and rural areas than in traditionally gay-friendly areas such as Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Especially high concentrations were found in Yakima, Wenatchee, Pasco and Vashon Island.

This data, of course, don’t begin to count the number of gay men and lesbians in Washington, or even the number of couples – just those comfortable enough to check a box on the census form.

In one way or another, I expect that each of those couples will have a conversation like the one I had with my fellow musician, and someone else will start hearing Igpay Atlinlay when those who oppose same-sex marriage start spouting old and tired and untrue arguments.

And then, I expect, our legislators will have the courage to stand up and speak in clear, grammatically correct English, and add Washington to the growing number of states that recognize the full humanity of all of its residents.

Chris Madsen, a software developer and writer who moved to Olympia six years ago from Maine, is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors. She can be reached at cetmadsen@gmail.

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