My wife Trudi and I have been married for 39 years. We started dating in high school, married after college, and raised our three boys in a 100-year-old farmhouse in a small rural town in eastern Washington.
We opened a checking account together. We bought our house together. We never had to think twice about which box to check on forms asking for our marital status. We never had to think about how we introduce one another to others. We never had to deal with questioning glances when joining our children for school field trips, parent-teacher conferences, dental appointments, and the occasional emergency room visit (known to happen when you raise three boys on a farm).
We have had the privilege of being able to say the powerful yet simple statement that "we are married" and receiving all the rights, responsibilities, and recognition that come with being married.
We never lived in fear that our relationship would cause loved ones to shun us, strangers to glare at us, or, as happens too often, predators to bully, harm, or even kill us.
No one deserves that.
Here in Washington state, we are standing on the edge of history. A marriage equality bill is poised for passage in our state legislature that would legalize civil marriage. If lesbian and gay marriages are legalized, churches still would not be required to perform them -- just as the First Amendment protects. Granting all couples the full rights and responsibilities of marriage does not diminish equality for anyone.
It is the right thing to do, and it is the right time. But even if it passes (and it appears that it will), opposition is already gearing up to place a referendum on the ballot to repeal it.
But I am hopeful that the virtues of love, equality, and justice will prevail. We are no longer fighting for an unknown, shadowed minority. We are fighting for our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, our co-workers, and our children. We are fighting for people we love, who deserve every opportunity to build families and relationships openly, without fear and without reproach.
No politician should deny any of my fellow Washingtonians the right to marry. The rights and responsibilities of marriage are civil, they are legal, and now it is time that they be made equal.
Marriage strengthens a family's ability to care for one another. In these difficult economic times, the state should do everything it can to improve the quality of life for Washington families. We have seen this support echoed by some of our state's top employers, including Microsoft, Real Networks, Group Health, Nike, and Vulcan, who recently made a strong statement in support of marriage equality in Washington state.
Marriage equality is good for business, and it allows our state to attract, recruit, and retain the highest level of talent to live and work in Washington.
As a public servant, I know what it's like to make difficult and challenging votes. I commend the bipartisan support this bill has received so far and encourage the undecided members of the legislature to vote courageously to grant full marriage equality to all Washingtonians.
When I think of my 3-year-old grandson Brody, and as our family prepares for the birth of our first granddaughter next month, my hope and vision for them is a Washington state that stands up and leads the way in civil rights. Today that leadership begins with a vote for marriage equality.
Congressman Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) is the Democratic candidate for governor in Washington state and is one of the first 2012 candidates to support marriage equality. He has endorsed the campaign to legalize marriage equality in Washington state and is a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which seeks to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. Visit his website at JayInslee.com.
Follow Rep. Jay Inslee on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JayInslee