Ten years ago this month, Washington state passed a law legalizing gay marriage. (Liz Lloyd Akyol illustration)

As gay marriage turns 10 in Washington state, a reminder that progress is slow

As gay marriage turns 10 in Washington state, a reminder that progress is slow

By Tracy Simmons

Every little girl dreams of her wedding day, or so it’s said.

When we were young, my friend Kelly would wrap a white sheet around her head and pretend it was a veil. Then she’d walk slowly through the living room “aisle.” Step-together, step-together.

One day she hoped to wear an elaborate gown and stand in the front of a church arm-in-arm with a man in a tuxedo – just like the classic cake topper.

That’s not what I wanted, and I wouldn’t play along.

Instead I would take her sheet, pin it around my neck like a cape and jump off the stairs.

No Queer Weddings

Back then I couldn’t envision, or even understand what I wished for. There weren’t any wedding cakes with two women on top.

Gay marriage was illegal.

And it remained that way until I was 30 years old.

Legalization of LGBT Marriage

Saturday was the 10-year anniversary of gay marriage becoming legal in the state of Washington. More than three years later, it became legal nationwide.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years already, but also hard to believe we’ve only had the right to marry for one decade in this state.

As a religion reporter, I covered both the state and federal milestones. I interviewed couples who rushed to their affirming church or the courthouse. I also interviewed pastors, protesters and politicians who opposed the legislation.

Not all, but many of those who were against this LGBT right spewed their anger and disgust to me freely, obviously not aware that I was part of the community they detested so much.

I went home and cried.

These were times for celebration, yet hate (fear?) found a way to blatantly show itself and crash the day.

I’ve covered LGBT issues my whole career and am usually good at separating myself from the story, but sometimes hurtful words linger.

We Have Work To Do

As a kid, I didn’t act out my wedding day with my friends, but I have daydreamed about finding the one woman I’d spend my life falling in love with over and over again.

To me, because both my parents left, marriage is especially sacred. There’s nothing I long for more than finding someone who chooses to love me their whole life – unlike a family member, who is expected to.

So many people, though, want to prevent that from happening – even today.

The United Methodist Church is likely to split in part because of disagreements over ordination and marriage of LGBTQ members. It wasn’t long ago the Supreme Court sided with a Catholic adoption agency who refused to work with LGBTQ couples.

And the 2022 legislative session proves that we have a long way to go in fighting homophobia. Dozens of states are considering legislation related to LGBTQ discrimination, many attempting to single out and target LGBTQ people.

One glaring example is the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill that is getting traction. It would limit classroom discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity, and encourage parents to sue schools or teachers that engage in these topics, according to ABC News.

Some people don’t want kids to know there are wedding cake toppers now with two women, or two men.

We made huge strides in 2012 and again in 2015, but we have to keep moving forward. We can’t stop until the rights of everyone in our communities are recognized.

I lost touch with my childhood friend, Kelly. I’d like to think she got to wear her veil.

Maybe I’ll get married one day too. If my future wife is reading this: I won’t wear a cape and jump off the stairs on our wedding day. But I will always cherish our right.

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. She serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.

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