Tyler Lau is one of my closest friends, although we've drifted apart some in the last year or so. Today he was marrying his partner of five years, Jimmy Longwell. It was the first same-sex marriage I've been to since Washington's voters upheld the law which was passed by the legislature last spring, and which went into effect 10 days ago. I've known both of them for about as long as they've been together. They'd invited a few friends -- about a dozen showed up. They actually delivered their invitations the modern way too -- via a mass text message that read: "Hey kids -- wedding is at 415 at Burien courthouse if you are able to make it on the 19th. Thanks :)" The only two people dressed in suits were the two grooms, while the rest of us were looking like typical winter Seattleites in a collection of jeans, sweaters, and GoreTex. There were no flowers save the ones on the grooms lapels. No wedding cake, although one freind brought two cupcakes. The court is in a building that wasn't built as a courthouse and thus not majestic and regal -- and looked and felt more like a suburban dentists and doctors building, which it may very well have been at one time. It was slated for the odd time of 4:15, which is when they could get an available judge. This wasn't going to be a Princess Diana in St. Paul's Cathedral kinda thing, although I'm sure Jimmy -- who's ever the showman -- wouldn't have objected to something like that. So you can see why it didn't seem to me like a serious or very emotional event. It was all very "matter-of-fact".
For years I'd never really given marriage much of a thought to be honest. Growing up it's always been against the law for me to get married to someone I've loved, and I didn't expect that I'd ever get married nor that I'd want to for that matter. None of the role models I had growing up were "married". Many had "lovers" and later "partners" when "lovers" became kind of a passe' and dated term. But then slowly, bit by bit, the world's attitudes towards same-sex couples began to evolve and change and marriage rights have become secured in a number of places and the trend is growing. Within a year it's entirely possible that we'll see it legal (as it should be) across the USA. I never thought that day would happen in my lifetime. And even though I may have not wanted to get married myself, I've always firmly held the belief that I should be able to and that the law and community should recognize such marriages, just like it does for every other couple.
So today we all gathered at the court, waiting patiently for the judge to finish a small criminal trail and be able to perform the ceremony. Then we filed into the courtroom and the judge, a nice older lady, who looked somewhat Mrs. Doubtfire-ish, examined their paperwork and then started the ceremony. She asked if we were all friends or family -- and Jimmy said, "family -- they are our family". The judge smiled. We all gathered around in an informal circle. There was no wedding photographer in the traditional sense, but 12 folks all got out their cell phone cameras, and recorded it for posterity, posted it to Facebook, and Tweeted it to the universe. The judge started with a simple and beautifully worded admonishment to both of them to love and cherish and take care of each other, and then she continued on with the usual vows. But by that point I couldn't hear really, nor could I see. My eyes were all watery and I was choking up and all I could think of was how special this is, not only for Jimmy and Tyler, but for all of us there, including the judge.
And I think that's what hit me most -- this public acknowledgement by all of us -- and by the two of them -- and by the State of Washington and the community at large, that Tyler and Jimmy have made a commitment to each other, and we all recognize and validate and honor it. I was proud of them for making it, and I was proud of the citizens of my state for agreeing to recognize and honor it as well. The judge was very sweet -- and just as thrilled as all of us were. I don't know if this was her first same-sex marriage but I got the sense it was. Or perhaps she's always one who's thrilled at seeing people lovingly and publically commit to each other, or maybe its both. I don't imagine judges cry at the weddings they perform, but she did. We all did.
It brought back as well, the memory of Tony's and my wedding high atop Whistler Mountain in BC. Along with our friends Kurt and Roger, we were the first couples married in the town of Whistler when Canada's law changed back in 2003. I remember feeling this way back then -- and how I hadn't expected to based on my strictly legal view of marriage. I remember how I'd cried at publically acknowledging my love for Tony, and surprised that it stirred that up in me. There is something profoundly moving and special about making that promise in front of God, friends, family, society and the State, and having them all recognize and honor it as well. It's especially significant and emotional when its two people who have been told in the past that they can't -- that it's illegal -- that society doesn't recognize their love and committment even if they do. That their union and promise isn't sacred. Well that's all changed now! This affirms it strongly, forcefully, loudly -- and legally. That is probably why it hit me so hard I think. It's something every couple should experience at some time. And Good Lord willing, one day perhaps I will again as well.
Godspeed my friends Tyler and Jimmy, and much happiness to you both.