Gay-rights advocate state Sen. Ed Murray marries partner



During the many years he fought to advance gay rights, Sen. Ed Murray often referred to his longtime partner, Michael Shiosaki, and their desire to have their love and commitment legally recognized through marriage.Last year, when it was clear there were enough votes in the state Senate to pass historic legislation allowing gays to marry, Murray invited his colleagues to his wedding, although a date had yet to be set.

On Saturday, Murray wed Shiosaki in a formal Episcopal ceremony at St. Mark’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill, just blocks from the couple’s Seattle home. About 250 people attended the service and Champagne reception on the cathedral lawn.

Both men wore black tuxedos and white ties, a look that a friend described as “very Cary Grant.” Their King Charles Spaniel, Rory, was ring bearer and barked when the sermon was in danger of running on too long.

The Rev. Barry Keating, originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, told the audience that this was a first for him. “No, not what you’re thinking,” he said and then continued, “I have a sitting politician before me, and he can’t move.”

When The Very Reverend Steven Thomason, Dean of St. Mark’s, pronounced the couple married in the eyes of God and the law of Washington state, the audience gave them a prolonged standing ovation.

Murray, in the midst of a campaign for Seattle mayor, said he would have preferred to wait until after the November election to marry. But Shiosaki’s father, Fred, a decorated World War II veteran, is 89 and his mother, Lily, 85. Shiosaki wanted them to be able to escort him up the aisle. He also wanted to marry on Aug. 10, the 22nd anniversary of the day they met.

Murray was escorted up the aisle by two of his sisters, Margaret Fox and Judy Murray. His nephew, Jon Noski, was his best man.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, former Gov. Mike Lowry, State House Speaker Frank Chopp, of Seattle, and Lisa Brown, former Democratic senator from Spokane, attended. Two Republicans who voted for gay marriage – Steve Litzgow, of Mercer Island; and Joe Fain, of Auburn – also were present.

The couple walked from the church as St. Mark’s massive organ played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

In an interview last week, both men recalled that first encounter on a camping and hiking trip to Mount Rainier with a group of mutual friends. Murray said that he was driving around, searching for the campsite, when he saw Shiosaki standing on a log. “I thought, ‘Wow. Who’s that?’ ” Murray said.

Murray said that Shiosaki, an experienced hiker, ran up the trail with another friend and he, winded, eventually caught up and introduced himself. They talked again that night.

Their dates over the next few months, they said, were mostly dinners followed by long conversations.

Shiosaki, who said that at the time he had only recently come out as gay, was impressed by Murray’s political activism on behalf of gay and lesbian rights, but also by Murray’s love of the outdoors and his faith. Shiosaki had grown up in a Methodist household in Spokane. Murray grew up in a large Irish Catholic family in the Alki neighborhood of West Seattle.

Murray’s political life – he has represented Seattle’s 43rd District, first in the house and then in the Senate – meant Shiosaki became a political spouse. While Murray is in Olympia for months every year, Shiosaki is director of planning for the Seattle Parks Department.

Still, Shiosaki traveled to Olympia for many key debates and hearings as Murray fought to advance first a bill banning discrimination because of sexual orientation and then bills to create and expand domestic-partnership rights and benefits.

Over the years, both received death threats and what they refer to as “after-death threats” of the “you’ll-burn-in-hell” variety.”

Shiosaki’s best man and Capitol Hill neighbor, Don Botts, said “they are apart six to nine months every year, but they’ve made it work. Michael’s love and support of Ed is completely evident and visa versa.”

Still, a wedding of any of his gay friends is a shock, Botts said. “There’s still a part of me that doesn’t believe we can be getting married.”

Murray and Shiosaki said they plan to honeymoon after the November general election in a warm and sunny place.