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Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Word from a Marriage Equality Pioneer

Posted by on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 4:34 PM

In the comments, some news from Paul Barwick. More than 40 years ago, he and Faygele ben Miriam walked into the King County Recorder's office, demanded a marriage license, and were denied by a man whose name may sound familiar: Lloyd Hara.

The backstory is here, and today's story, according to Barwick's comment:

I just got off the phone where I was chatting with Lloyd Hara, who was the County Clerk who refused to issue us the license in 1971. It's funny what a difference 40 years can make. Mr. Hara, who is now the King County Assessor, and who coincidentally ended up the father of a lesbian, became a strong and vocal advocate for marriage equality. It was a real pleasure to be able to talk and share today's happiness with him.

Sometime I wish it were possible to get young people to understand just how bad and oppressive life was for queer folk back in the day but then I have to remind myself that the whole idea of putting ourselves on the line to change things was so that they wouldn't have to know or experience the things that we did. So it's good that in a couple of years when Tim and Bob or Mary and Sue end up walking down the aisle it won't even occur to them that there was a time when such an act would have been banned, questioned or even looked at as unusual.

Good job, folks. Faygele and I may have been on the front lines early, but it is all those who came after, gay and straight together, who did the heavy lifting on this. Each and every one of us should be very proud of what we have accomplished.

And pot, too? Just too friggin' awesome.

Also: You have got to see the picture of Barwick and ben Miriam at the King County marriage license desk in 1971—ben Miriam in seersucker jacket and tie, Barwick in tight white t-shirt reading "GAY." Click here and scroll down.


Comments (16) RSS

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fletc3her 16
It's been a privilege to be part of this movement over the past year, but I do feel a little like a relay runner who steps in at the end of a marathon through a minefield. We get to carry the baton over the finish line on this issue, but only because of so many people who have fought for these rights for decades. It is important to remember that the rights we enjoy today have been won through much bravery and sacrifice.
Posted by fletc3her on December 7, 2012 at 12:48 PM · Report this
Sometimes people who are against marriage equality argue that gay and lesbian relationships are inherently unstable, so there is no point in granting marriage equality because the couples are just going to break up anyway. Thanks to all the couples out there in decades-long relationships who not only fought for marriage equality, but who are now allowed to partake.
Posted by Clayton on December 7, 2012 at 6:55 AM · Report this
JensR 14
I've always been amazed how the end of legal cruelties always start with illegal action against them.
Even though it was nice to grow up in that first generations of gays and lesbians that, when we came of age, where granted equal rights - and a few years later, equal marriage rights, it's scary how many forget that just because there is a law, doesn't make that law right and how the fights against injust laws where actually fought. And are fought for that matter.

There is always a benefit to talk about history.
Posted by JensR on December 6, 2012 at 11:03 PM · Report this
What a beautiful article, Eli. You really are a writer. Paul Constant, also. We're so lucky to have the Stranger in Seattle.
Posted by sarah70 on December 6, 2012 at 10:05 PM · Report this
@Fnarf: As of 4 pm, 2 same-sex couples received licenses in Grant County today. None reported in Ferry or Garfield.
Posted by VoteApprove74 on December 6, 2012 at 7:16 PM · Report this
sperifera 11
If only Ellen Craswell were still alive to share it our joy today. It has been a long time coming. Thank you to all that have fought the fight against hatred.
Posted by sperifera on December 6, 2012 at 6:48 PM · Report this
TVDinner 10
@Fnarf: Spokesman has this:…
Posted by TVDinner http:// on December 6, 2012 at 6:46 PM · Report this
@7, OMG, how are you Dan? We should have a reunion, those of us who are left from the Malden House, Gay Community Center, Elwah Land Project, SCCSM, SGN, "The Gay Hour" on KRAB radio, etc. Maybe this coming June?
Posted by PaulBarwick on December 6, 2012 at 6:29 PM · Report this
Fnarf 8
Here's a question: what about other counties? I've seen pics from Thurston, but what about those small eastern Washington counties? Did anybody show up in Grant or Ferry or Garfield? What do the clerks in those counties have to say? Someone from The Stranger should get on the horn and find out for us.
Posted by Fnarf on December 6, 2012 at 6:13 PM · Report this
Oh my god. I know all the people in this article and was at all the places - Malden Street, SCS, etc.

I moved to Seattle from Chicago (via several other places) in 1972. In 1969 and 1979 I was an active member in Chicago Gay Liberation. We managed to enrage the Mafia, learned how to avoid a "contract". Nearly got a few thousand people thrown in jail by the Vice Squad at a big dance we held. And had an action at the APA Convention that resulted in the task force that, a couple years later, removed homosexuality from the DSM.

Faygele, Paul, Patty and I all had strong personalities (Paul the calmest) and managed to accomplish things that few people have the opportunity to do. There were lots of memorable Faygele characters in the early days of Gay Liberation. They were the necessary catalysts.
Posted by Dan B on December 6, 2012 at 6:12 PM · Report this
kitschnsync 6
Great piece on Faygele, Eli!
Posted by kitschnsync on December 6, 2012 at 6:08 PM · Report this
It might also astonish many of the younger set to discover that as recently as the late 1980's women were not eligible for membership in 10,000's of service clubs worldwide.

See… for a slice of that history, including the role played by a familiar local character.
Posted by RonK, Seattle on December 6, 2012 at 5:46 PM · Report this
The backstory was one of the best Lgbt histories ever!
Posted by VoteApprove74 on December 6, 2012 at 5:34 PM · Report this
rob! 3
Thanks to Paul and his partner for their pioneering work, and Eli for helping document it.

As you float down the river of happiness in this joyful time, people, keep history in mind. Save pictures and videos, and write about not only your current experiences, but harder and scarier times while your recollections are still strong, before they get drowned in contentment.
World's First Video on Legal Marriage for Same-Sex Couples:

In 1996, Partners produced The Right to Marry , a video documentary based on the dire need for equality that was revealed by our national survey. This was the world's first documentary about the struggle for legal marriage.

The video featured interviews with Rev. Mel White, Evan Wolfson, Phyllis Burke Richard Mohr, Kevin Cathcart, Faygele benMiriam, Benjamin Cable-McCarthy, and Susan Reardon.

The original original 72-min. video is now out-of-print. It is now available as a 7 min. excerpt on Demian’s Film & Video Projects - Archive DVD. [Embedded links in the source are out-of-date.]
Posted by rob! on December 6, 2012 at 5:19 PM · Report this
I've been a sloppy bag of mush all day from the complete overload of adorable pictures. After all the years of pain, discrimination and hard work this is more than a welcome day of happy.
Posted by SeattleKim on December 6, 2012 at 4:54 PM · Report this
Thanks for writing that, Paul. It's an amazing privilege to encounter young people unable to grasp how awful it once was.
Posted by gloomy gus on December 6, 2012 at 4:53 PM · Report this

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