Ashland council took step toward marriage equality

Falling in love is like no other experience. For me it started when I was at a Friday night club and one of my favorite songs, "So in Love with You," spilled out of the speakers. Rushing toward the dance floor, I saw someone who stopped me dead in my tracks. She seemed to have an aura around her. Her name was Josh, and she asked me to dance.

Fourteen years later, we're still dancing. Together, we've welcomed three beautiful grandchildren into the world, celebrated birthdays together, publicly committed ourselves to each other and mourned at funerals together. We consider each other wives. But despite our love and ongoing commitment, we can't legally marry in Ashland, a city we love and are a part of.

We are a lot like other committed couples. We work out our finances together. We love our country and our community. We take care of each other, in sickness and in health. We host dinner parties, read the newspaper and love our families.

Fifty-seven years old, I've spent most of my adult life working in the food and beverage industry and currently work as the catering manager at the Ashland Springs Hotel. I volunteer at the local food bank and like to shop at the Ashland Food Co-op where my son works. Josh is 67 years old and retired from the film and video industry. She spends most of her time in her studio, creating multimedia art. We have two dogs; Mollie, a Bijon-Poodle mix, and Sophie, a terrier mix.

Josh and I want to be legally married for the same reasons that other couples do — to share the love, commitment, responsibilities and protections that only a legal marriage provides. Imagine what it would be like if you could not marry the person you love. Nothing says love, commitment and family in the same way that marriage does. Marriage would make it easier for me and Josh to take care of each other.

Fortunately, more people are talking to their friends and neighbors and coming to understand why we need the freedom to marry. Voters in our neighboring state of Washington are poised to approve it in November. Oregonians might vote on it as soon as 2014. Poll after poll shows a growing majority of Americans support the freedom to marry.

On Sept. 18, the members of the Ashland City Council signed an endorsement of civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Josh and I were sitting next to each other in the City Council chambers, watching history take place. When Mayor Stromberg read a moving statement about the freedom to marry, Josh and I held each other's hands. Tears flowed down our cheeks as we looked into each others eyes. Though we still can't legally marry, the Ashland City Council had brought us one step closer.

I think we should do what we can to help people take care of each other. I believe that treating others the way we want to be treated includes supporting gay and lesbian couples who want the freedom to marry, even if we are uncomfortable with it. Giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry would not change how each religion defines marriage. Churches and clergy would not have to recognize our marriages. People like me and Josh would be able to experience the happiness and the responsibilities that marriage uniquely provides.

You can help us, too. If you're not sure what you think about the freedom to marry, ask your gay and lesbian friends and family what they think about it. If you already support the freedom to marry, talk to folks about why it matters.

It's hard when you love your wife and can't legally marry her. The more people who come out in support of the freedom to marry and the more we tell people about its importance, the sooner everyone will be able to experience the joy, love and commitment that marriage is all about.

Gina Duquenne is the board president of the Phoenix Counseling Center.

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