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‘Isle’ of welcome commitment

Lopez Island’s Ron Hall, left, and longtime partner Robert Hermann fill out forms for a marriage license, Dec. 6, at the San Juan County Auditor’s office. Six same-sex couple were issued licenses last week.  - Journal photo / Scott Rasmussen
Lopez Island’s Ron Hall, left, and longtime partner Robert Hermann fill out forms for a marriage license, Dec. 6, at the San Juan County Auditor’s office. Six same-sex couple were issued licenses last week.
— image credit: Journal photo / Scott Rasmussen

By Scott Rasmussen, Journal editor

After 35 years as a couple, Karen Kuster and Susan Moon had pretty much done it all. They raised three adopted children, have a second grandchild on the way, and seven years ago retired to San Juan Island without ever having stepped a foot on the island.

The two, formerly of Los Angles, became smitten by a book about the islands

But then Referendum 74 came along. And Moon and Kuster will soon embark on a new era in their three-decade long relationship. With a marriage license in hand, they intend to wed on the solstice, Dec. 21.

“It’s a special time for us,” Moon said. “That’s when we celebrate Christmas, really.”

Six marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples last week by the San Juan County Auditor’s office. Not only did local voters join their state counterparts in embracing Ref. 74, which legalizes gay marriage in Washington state, they did so enthusiastically, with 71 percent approval, compared to 54 percent statewide.

A couple for almost 17 years, Lopez Island’s Ron Hall and Robert Herrmann jumped at the opportunity to obtain a marriage license on Thursday, the first day they were available at the San Juan County auditor’s office. They were the fourth couple of the same gender to plop down the $60 fee and then leave the courthouse with a license to wed in hand.

The two intend to marry as soon as possible. In fact, after the 3-day mandatory waiting period elapses, Hall and Herrman 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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