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Be Happy for Us

An Excerpt from American Savage and a Message All Straight People Need to Hear

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[Editor's Note: The following is an excerpted passage from Dan Savage's newest book, American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics, on sale now! Buy it... it's boss.]

KERRY PARK is one of Seattle's smaller parks. It's perched on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill, just northwest of downtown, and boasts sweeping views—parks can be such braggarts—of the Space Needle, Elliott Bay, Mount Rainier, and downtown Seattle. (Frasier Crane's condo would have been located just behind Kerry Park, if Frasier Crane's condo had existed in Seattle and not on a soundstage in Los Angeles.) Locals and tourists crowd the park at all hours, day and night, all year long, to admire the view.

I was in Kerry Park on a clear winter day, years ago, in the pre-Instagram era, when a limo pulled up. A wedding party spilled out. The photographer positioned the bride and groom on the grass near the edge of the park. The newlyweds posed for a wedding portrait with the city and Space Needle behind them. As the bride and groom stood holding each other, with the photographer snapping away, the small crowd in the park began to applaud. Everyone was beaming. People shouted, "Congratulations!" and the newlywed couple climbed back into their limo.

I was standing on the sidewalk, at the edge of the park, near a couple of guys that I knew.

Well, I didn't know them. I didn't know them personally. (And, no, I didn't know them biblically.) But I knew them and they knew me. They were a couple of late-middle-aged gay men, a decade or two older than I was at the time, out for a walk with their dogs. I caught the eye of one of the guys while we were clapping for the straight couple getting in the limo. He shook his head, smiled wanly, and shrugged.

"We're always happy for them," he said. "Would it kill them to be happy for us?"

Terry and I got married at Seattle's city hall on December 9, 2012, the first day that same-sex marriage was legal in Washington State. We had married in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2005, on our 10th anniversary. Our Canadian marriage was legally recognized by the state of Washington on December 6, 2012, the first day same-sex couples could apply for marriage licenses, so our city hall wedding was more of a renewal of vows. But we had fought long and hard for the right to marry in the state in which we lived, and we wanted the piece of paper. We slipped off our wedding rings—a pair of silver rings with skulls on them that our adopted son DJ picked out when he was six years old (he wanted us to remember that it's "until death do you part" every time we looked at our left hands)—a moment before our ceremony, quickly exchanged them, and then put them back on each other's fingers.

Before last year, Terry and I weren't legally married in Washington State. We are now, thanks to the voters here. (I'm proud to say that same-sex marriage passed by a wider margin in Washington than in the other two states that legalized same-sex marriage on Election Day of 2012.) Terry and I have gained something—the rights and protections of marriage that the state of Washington controls (I get to decide where Terry is buried if he dies before me); the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still deprives us of the rights and protections of marriage controlled by the federal government (Terry will not be able to collect my Social Security benefits if I die before him)—but straight people who are against same-sex marriage (and their spouses) lost nothing. Something was given to us but nothing was taken from them.

There were 144 other couples that got married at Seattle City Hall on that rainy Sunday in early December. Five pop-up wedding chapels had been erected in the lobby of the building, and everywhere you looked you saw couples that had been together five, 10, 20, even 40 years exchanging vows in front of family members and friends. It was impossible to be at city hall that day and not be moved.

But for me the most moving moment came after our ceremony. A huge crowd had gathered on the steps outside city hall. All day long a brass band at the bottom of the steps played wedding marches. The names of each newly married couple were announced to the crowd as they exited the building. Each time the crowd burst into applause and cheers, throwing rice and flower petals. People shouted, "Congratulations!"

And almost all of the well-wishers gathered outside city hall on that glorious day were straight people.

As Terry and I walked down the steps—moments after we were married by a straight judge, our marriage officially witnessed by two straight men we both admire (my brother Billy, who was the first person I came out to, and Seattle's mayor, Mike McGinn)—I thought of those guys in Kerry Park. On the steps of city hall, Terry's hand in mine, I quietly hoped that those guys were still around and that they were still together.

I hope they were one of the couples that married at city hall on December 9. I hope they got to walk down those steps. I hope they had lived long enough to see a crowd of straight people cheering for them. I hope they got to see it. They were happy for us.

Not all of them, of course, certainly not the Brian Browns and Rick Santorums and Maggie Gallaghers and Peter LaBarberas. But a growing majority of straight people are happy for us, just as we've always been happy for them. We felt it on Election Night, November 6, 2012, when marriage equality won in Washington, Maine, and Maryland, and we saw it—we saw it with our own eyes—on the steps outside of Seattle's city hall on Sunday, December 9, 2012.

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