The march of history to marriage equality
Marching in the Pride Parade on Sunday decked in campaign garb–a favorite annual event for any elected official in Seattle wanting to reach tens of thousands of politically active voters who all happen to be in a ridiculously good mood–reminded me of a fascinating article about political history in our state currently making the email rounds of Seattle’s various subcultures from traditional politics to Jewish thought. It warrants more than a passing reference not merely because it lays the foundation for an understanding of today’s legal approach to marriage equality but because it tells a richer story behind the story.
Like so many folks in Seattle, I am an unabashed fan of The Stranger’s Pulitzer Prize winner Eli Sanders’ work. With due respect to The Stranger, it will not be long before his articles float effortlessly to readers from The Atlantic, New Yorker, New York Times Magazine and other such publications. The nuanced writer often probes into unique side-bar issues, ideas and personalities around the edges of our community, and recently Sanders has touched a cord with his dramatic write up in Tablet, an alternative Jewish journal, about a man whose given name was John Singer and who was known as Faygele Ben Miriam. It’s an amazingly bold, brazen and nuanced journey whether you are drawn by an interest in equality, radical politics, uncomfortably iconic cliches of New York Jews or as a pure state history buff.
Faygele was “the radical activist who pioneered the fight for same-sex marriage in Washington State.” Given the dramatic shift in the nation’s thinking–notably even in the four short years I’ve been marching in Seattle’s Pride Parade–about marriage equality the journey he began at the King County Courthouse seems almost surreal.
By any standard Faygele was a political radical in the most flamboyant sense, an over-the-top aggressive New York Jew who staged a wildly successful PR event attempting to secure a marriage license in 1970 with his partner, beginning a legal push for marriage equality in the court of public opinion and on the bench that continues to this day.
Every movement has it’s Faygeles. Every movement fears, embraces and shuns them and ultimately celebrates their audacity but usually long after they are no more.
What was once a wildly obnoxious concept has become expected, not because the idea has changed, but because we have changed.
When I told my children during this year’s session that I had the honor of voting in the Legislature to grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, they expressed a mundane lack of intellectual or political interest and quickly moved on to an animated argument about whose turn it was to clear the table. “What in the world is the big deal,” was the sentiment in a 4-0 kid vote at our dinner table.
Your partner in service,