Feb 15, 2014

Our Holy Union

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On the Friday night after Virginia’s anti gay marriage amendment was ruled unconstitutional, I received this letter to the editor from Tom Osborne, a Board Member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia and a member of the Alexandria Democratic Committee. Tom has been in the fight for equal rights for LGBT Virginians for many years and was one of the founding members of our predecessor organization, the Virginia Partisans. He could not let the ruling go without reflecting personally on just what this ruling will mean to so many same sex couples in Virginia including him and his partner. Here is the text of Tom’s letter:

On Thursday evening, Virginia’s anti-gay-marriage laws were ruled unconstitutional. On Friday the world celebrated the holiday of love, Valentine’s Day. In two days, on Sunday, I will celebrate the 41st anniversary of the day I met the love of my life. We have been in a same-sex marriage for more than 40 years, although our church at the time had to call it a “Holy Union” to avoid running afoul of the laws of Georgia.

1973 Holy Union - Let Them Eat Cake _1
Tom's Ceremony in 1973
1973 Holy Union - Champagne Toast

The juxtaposition of those three dates has served to remind me how far we’ve come in 41 years. Back then, ours was “the love that dared not speak its name.” There was no political support for gay rights – let alone broader LGBT rights – in either party. Even nearly a decade later, the one sponsor of legislation to repeal Virginia’s sodomy law could not find a single co-sponsor!

I am proud of my party – the Democratic Party — for its evolution on LGBT issues and, most specifically, on the issue of marriage equality. Democratic organizations at all levels – Alexandria, 8th Congressional District, Virginia, and national – all endorsed marriage equality prior to the 2012 elections. Our President, Vice President, two Senators, Congressman, Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General – all Democrats – all endorse marriage equality, and Attorney General Herring even argued in court in its favor. Support for marriage equality also comes from Alexandria’s Democratic representatives in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, our Mayor, our 6 City Council members, and our 3 constitutional officers. The judge who issued the ruling was appointed by President Obama.

I and others like me have worked tirelessly over the decades to effectuate change within the Democratic Party, and it is gratifying to see that the party has listened. I fervently wish the sea change in attitudes that led to Thursday’s ruling were more bi-partisan. Unfortunately, gay Republicans and their allies have been unsuccessful in weaning their party from its right-wing constituency even though many mainstream Republicans tell us they support our cause.

While as a nation we still have a long way to go on issues such as employment and housing discrimination, we can at least see the light of success at the end of the tunnel on marriage equality. I would like to thank Democrats and everyone else who has supported and believed in this cause for making this decision possible. At age 65, it now looks like John and I might have our marriage legally-recognized in our lifetimes rather than posthumously.

I want to thank Tom for his personal statement and I’d like to ask each of you to share your own thoughts on our Facebook page. There are so many couples across Virginia that want to be recognized and want their love and commitment to be considered equal and valuable. So many couples that are committed and loving fight every day to make a home, even though their relationships are not acknowledged and recognized. That means paying extra for insurance because their spouses’ company does not honor their relationship, not being able to adopt their own child, not being able to be considered a couple for state tax purposes, inherit property tax free, or a myriad of other things that heterosexual couples take for granted every day. The time is here for equality and acknowledgement that allows us all to live equally under the law.

Maggie Sacra
LGBT Democrats of Virginia