On Valentine's Day four years ago we watched in amazement as same-sex couples in San Francisco got married at City Hall. My partner Ed and I had never really discussed getting married, as in the U.S. it simply was not much of a possibility. Suddenly we found ourselves agreeing that if it did become possible in Oregon, we would have our relationship legally recognized by having a ceremony.
Two weeks later, after hearing the news about Multnomah County's decision to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, we spent four days planning our ceremony to be held on the stage of my client and friend Don Horn's Theater! Theatre! Before a incredible gathering of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and clients we were married on March 7,2004. The event was even documented by the local weekly paper Willamette Week (at right).
Of course, just the thought of same-sex couples getting married put a twisted wad in the panties of irrational, misinformed, right-wing, conservative, religious individuals. With such events actually happening, there were incredibly nasty protests, public hissy fits, court challenges and more. Eventually, as in municipalities around the country, the courts invalidated our marriage. However, we still have a pretty, official marriage certificate to hang on our wall and amazing memories of an wonderful time in our relationship.
Over the past four years there were more public and political battles in regards to gay rights issues in the State of Oregon. In fact, throughout our 18-year relationship the religious and political confrontations have been almost ongoing. Back in the early 90's, after I appeared on local television as the spokesperson for a newly formed gay and lesbian business organization, I even received a telephoned death threat during the tense time of Oregon's Ballot Measure 9 political campaign. It was suggested that I not walk the streets of Portland by myself, neighbors were instructed to not let any strangers through the security front door of our downtown loft building, and I found myself running my design business with an unlisted phone number. All of this not because of anything I had done, but simply because of who I was.
This past fall two major bills were passed by the Oregon legislature. One state law that took effect in early January banned discrimination against gays in work, housing and public places. (Back in 1985 I lost an art director job simply because the owner of the business where I worked was "uncomfortable" having a gay employee - I had no legal recourse at all.) The other new law created domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians, allowing couples to file joint state tax returns, inherit each other's property, make medical decisions for each other and enjoy most of the other state benefits and responsibilities that married residents receive. Only nine other states have similar laws granting legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples.
The law was to take effect on January 2, 2008. Then, four days before gay couples would have been eligible for most of the same legal benefits of marriage, U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman blocked Oregon's domestic partnership law from taking effect, saying opponents should have a chance to make their case for a statewide election on civil unions. A hearing on the matter was set for February 1.
On that day, after hours of statements by proponents and opponents, Judge Mosman threw out the lawsuit against Oregon's domestic partnership law, allowing the legislation to go into effect immediately. The news was unexpected - and Ed and I learned of it through an email from the son of a lawyer Ed had previously worked with at the firm where he is the business manager.
On the morning of February 5th we went to the Multnomah County offices and legally registered our nearly 18-year relationship. We were just one of the hundreds of couples, including numerous friends, who have registered partnerships throughout the State of Oregon in the past two weeks.
So, on this Valentine's Day we again celebrate our relationship - with much greater importance and pride than in the past. Yes, there will be additional challenges to the validity of us having a legally recognized union. The tired old "gay agenda" arguments have already been appearing in the media again - from the same tired old sources. (I never got my copy of the agenda - so I'm really not sure where I'm to be or what I'm to be doing on a daily basis). I wish such individuals and groups would just butt out of my life. I don't understand their weird obsession and fascination with what I may be doing in the privacy of my own home - and how that may be actually impacting their lives (which I have absolutely no interest in at all.) You would think these people would have much more productive things to do with their time and energy - especially after decades of this battle.
Ed and I want to thank our ever-supportive friends, neighbors and family members. Ed's law firm co-workers have always been so respectful in honoring our relationship. I've also had incredible support and encouragement from clients, vendors and members of the design community around the world. The staff and volunteers at the Multnomah County offices made the registration process very easy and enjoyable. We also have great appreciation for Basic Rights Oregon - for all of the organization's efforts in recent years.
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