James Blakely was arrested in Idaho protesting for LGBTQ rights. Three months later, he had the opportunity to see two dear friends married in the courthouse. Tears of joy abounded.
This past July I appeared inside the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho, to listen to a judge sentence many of my friends who were arrested for engaging in peaceful civil disobedience at the State Capitol during the 2014 legislative session. They were fed up with our legislature’s silence and lack of action on the Add the Words bill – a bill that would add the 4 words ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ to the Idaho Human Rights Act, thus making it illegal to fire someone or evict them from their house for being gay or transgender.
Three months later, I find myself back at the courthouse but for a very different reason. After many trials and tribulations and much back-and-forth between our bigoted governor, Butch Otter, and the U.S. Court of Appeals, the ban on same-sex marriage was lifted and Idaho become the 30th state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage.
The sun was just beginning to rise on this October day over the City of Trees as I headed down to the courthouse to meet my friend Ty, who had camped out overnight to ensure that she and her partner could be the first couple to marry in Ada County. I was ecstatic: not only to be a part of this historical moment in the Gem State but also to witness the blessed union of my two friends.
After they obtained their marriage certificate, an entourage of friends fell in line behind the ebullient couple and followed them outside. We were greeted by a roaring crowd of over 200 people. Bubbles danced through the air as flowers were tossed and pride flags fluttered in the wind. So much love and happiness filled the electric-charged courtyard. Everyone was smiling, and cheering. Tears of joy ran down cheeks of those young and old, of gay and straight. We were experiencing an event for the history books. As I stood alongside Ty and Becky’s nearly-grown daughters I felt nothing but happiness for them. Now, in their final year of high school, the two sisters could finally see their parents get married after being together for 16 years.
In their minds, Ty and Becky have been “married” for a long time but were always denied the 1,138 benefits that married heterosexual couples receive. But now, their marriage is official and legally recognized by the state.
Since first getting arrested with Ty this past winter in the fight to add the 4 words, I’ve gotten to know Ty and her family. Ty, Becky and their daughters have built a wonderful life together in Boise based on love, commitment, sacrifice, and happiness. Their family is as loving as any other heterosexual family that I know. I am proud and fortunate to have them as friends and gladly stand with them in their struggles to not to be treated as second-class citizens.
As the sun made its way across the desert sky the wind picked up, blowing out the backward ways of our politicians. I watched many more couples (reaching a total of 45 by the end of the day) come out of the courthouse, marriage certificates in hand and giant smiles on their faces. A few of the older couples were still in disbelief – thinking that they wouldn’t live long enough to see Idaho, the second most conservative state in the U.S., legalize same-sex marriage.
I wonder how many same-sex couples wanted to get married today but didn’t out of fear. Fear of showing up to work the day after their wedding and being told that they are fired. Or perhaps they would have to find new housing because their landlord doesn’t like gay couples. This is still all too much of a reality for LGBTQ Idahoans. But today, we celebrate with a champagne toast (or in our case a round of milkshakes): to victory, love and happiness. Tomorrow we get back to work making Idaho a safer place for LGBT people to come out. Because closets are meant for wardrobes.