The Legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom, and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.
This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.
Should this bill be:
My husband, Keith and I have been married for 33 years. Marriage is a lot of hard work, but it's worth it. When you find someone you love, that you can be with, that just completes you. Keith and I know how much our marriage means to us. That's why we we've been excited to see more conversation taking place about the importance of marriage equality throughout Washington state.
When Keith and I were growing up, we didn't know much about gay people, and we certainly never thought about same-sex couples getting married. Over the years, like most families, we have gotten to know many gay and lesbian people: family members, people we work with, and members of our church.
When our own son Khalil told us he was gay, there wasn't any hesitation for us: We love him for who he is. Given our family structure, we only considered what this would mean to Khalil; it didn't change or alter how we felt about him. Khalil was conceived in love and basks in that love today, not only from his family but also from the special person in his life.
When we spend time around Khalil and his partner, we're always so touched by their clear love for each other. They are there for each other for the long haul, in sickness and in health. Watching them reminds us of our own relationship. It's made us realize that all committed couples, whether gay or straight, share similar reasons for wanting to marry -- to make a lifetime promise to each other and to share the joys and challenges that life brings.
Some people might say that gay couples should be allowed to have certain legal protections, but be excluded from marriage. I don't agree with that stance. First, most people don't understand what a domestic partnership is, but marriage is clear. Marriage says that two people will take responsibility for each other, and that in times of crisis, they will be there for each other. And moreover, growing up black in America, I know what's it's like to be excluded simply because of the color of my skin. No one should be denied the protections and support that come with marriage, no matter who they are.
Keith and I were raised with the Golden Rule, to treat others as we would want to be treated. That should include being able to marry the person you love. I can't imagine someone telling me that I couldn't marry Keith. And I think all of us can look with our heart and our eyes and see our family and friends who are gay or lesbian and know that they too are God's children.
Washington is the kind of state where values matter. To us, that means treating all families with respect and dignity under the law. It means not denying anyone the freedom to marry the person they love.
We count ourselves lucky to be able to witness the love and commitment of Khalil and his partner. I urge everyone to support Referendum 74 and reach out and get to know more about the relationships of gay couples in your neighborhood. Talk to the members of your congregation or workplace who have gay children. And think about how you would feel if you were told you couldn't marry the person you love.
Antoinette Edwards lives with her husband in Vancouver. Along with their son Khalil, they are co-founders of the Black Chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (http://www.pflag.org).