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San Juan County couples make it official today

December 6, 2012 · Updated 5:10 PM
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This morning, Robert Herrmann and Ron Hall made their relationship official by being one of four same-sex couples to receive a marriage license at the San Juan County Auditor’s Office in Friday Harbor. / Journal photo / Scott Rasmussen

By San Juan Journal and Sounder staff

Life affirming.

It's the two words Robert Herrmann used to describe how he felt when Referendum 74 was passed by voters.

“I am ecstatic and elated and befuddled,” he said. “I am still in shock and awe. I feel gobsmacked. There was a huge win for marriage equality across the country.”

Herrmann, who lives on Lopez, has been with his partner Ron Hall for 16 years.

This morning, they made their relationship official by being one of four same-sex couples to receive a marriage license at the San Juan County Auditor’s Office in Friday Harbor. A couple that wishes to remain anonymous received the first license and were followed by Anne Hietbrink and Beth Shirk of Lopez, Karen Kuster and Susan Moon of San Juan and Herrmann and Hall. Today marks voter-approved Referendum 74 formally taking effect around the state.

“This is affirming. I feel like a full citizen now,” Herrmann said. “Straight people don't have the experience of being called names and ridiculed.”

Governor Christine Gregoire signed the marriage bill last February.

That bill prompted Referendum 74, which 53.7 percent of Washington voters approved while 46.3 percent rejected it in last month’s election.

In San Juan County, the measure was overwhelmingly approved: 70 percent to 30 percent.

Referendum 74 allows gay couples to marry and preserves domestic partnerships for seniors and the right of religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage ceremony. The marriage license costs $60 and is good for 60 days.

Washington joins these states in legalizing same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Hall and Herrman intend to marry as soon as possible. In fact, after the three-day mandatory waiting period elapses,  they will exchange vows in San Juan County Superior Court, on Monday, with Judge Don Eaton officiating.
Hermann, 59, said he firmly believed at one time that he would never live to see the day. "Not ever, never in our lifetimes," he said. Still, he noted cultural attitudes have shifted dramatically and in a positive direction toward gay people and their relationships in particular over the last few decades.
"It's really a non-issue with most of the people we know anymore," he said.
Although it left devastation in its wake, Hall points to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and '90s as a milestone that helped to humanize gay people in the eyes of many and to also stir empathy and understanding among the larger population. People are more inclined now to focus more on similarities than differences, he said.
"When they're able to put a face to it," he said, "then it becomes a part of regular society, rather than something secret, or something dark."

 

 

 

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