I came to the U.S.A. in search of freedom, and in admiration of a country whose foreign policy in 1980 was viewed through the lens of advancing human rights. When voters in the state of Washington approve Referendum 74 this November, giving lesbian and gay couples the freedom to marry, the moral and spiritual arc of the universe will once again bend toward inclusion. New light will be shed on what human rights and freedom.
My husband and I have a vantage point of living both in Seattle and on a farm in rural eastern Washington. Three years ago, when we made that decision, many Seattle friends worried what it would be like for us to be in what they labeled "redneck country." Surely, they said, it would be difficult to live outside the progressive liberal bubble of Seattle.
Yes, there are differences between these two parts of the state, but our eastern Washington circle of acquaintances, which includes farmers, cowboys, and ropers, as well as people in the wine industry, never makes us question our full inclusion as a couple.
Some whom we know will be voting for the Romney-Ryan ticket and to approve the referendum that will permit the legislation allowing same-gender couples to marry to become the law of the state. Although I cannot understand how someone can vote for a presidential ticket so adamantly opposed to LGBT people as they vote to approve R-74, I have come to appreciate a factor that is at work for such people. In their eyes R-74 is about upholding the intrinsic values of freedom. For many of those, their support for the freedom to marry is colored by the loving relationships of gay and lesbian couples they personally know.
The latest tracking polls reveal that there is a statistical dead heat among voters in eastern Washington on the question of approving or rejecting this November's ballot initiative. To many in the Seattle area, this is staggeringly good news about a part of the state that they had written off with dismissive labels.
Some religious leaders, including the notoriously homophobic Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Baptist Church in Kirkland, Wash., are promising to launch a new petition drive to overturn the law if the voters approve Referendum 74. The organization Washington United for Marriage is actively recruiting conservative pastors with advice on how churches can avoid an IRS audit for financially supporting the defeat of the initiative.
Joining these groups, the state's Roman Catholic bishops opine that approval of freedom to marry is an assault on religious liberty, this in spite of the fact that the legislation in question makes explicit exemptions for religious organizations, retaining the existing "conscience clause" to choose whom to marry or not. In defiance of Seattle's archbishop, his own cathedral and two parishes have refused to distribute materials from the archdiocese urging rejection of the referendum.
I think of the couples whose unions I have blessed since the 1990s and their joy in having their love and partnership receive a sacred blessing. I suspect most of them yearn for the day in which a second-class status gives way to the freedom to choose marriage. They, like my spouse and I, have no desire to infringe on the freedom of others when we know too well the costs of the journey to freedom.
Tiers of freedom in which some are relegated to a lesser status is no freedom at all. Alongside the great movements to end slavery and extend the vote to women, and the successful struggle over civil rights, freedom to marry expands what it means to be part of the human family.
The radiant promise of freedom and human rights that drew me to the United States in 1980 will become brighter when the voters of Washington affirm that freedom includes the freedom to marry. It will be a celebration of the moral and spiritual arc that always bends toward inclusion!