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OutLoud: Flexing Our Equality Muscle

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The good fight ends in domestic partnership for Sally and Wifey.

Sally74You’ve seen those old Popeye cartoons. Bluto’s meaty fist clutches Popeye by the neck, whomping him like a rag doll this way and that. Olive Oyl stands ringside, wringing her hankie in distress. The battered sailor-man pulls out a can, musters enough strength to squeeze it open, and downs a sopping wad of spinach. Instantly, his muscles bulge, his pipe twirls, and in no time he is pummeling Bluto’s head while the soundtrack kicks in with Popeye’s theme song. With one final brawny punch, our hero sends the bad guy flying. Toot toot.

That’s what our battle for equality feels like.

We’ve been up. We’ve been down. Oregon got thrashed in 2006 with a one-man/one-woman constitutional amendment. We were down.

In ’07, we pumped ourselves up and won nondiscrimination and domestic-partnership bills—signed into law by the governor and everything. We were up.

Right-wing brutes tromped in last fall with fresh propaganda and launched a petition drive to recall our domestic-partnership law before it could take effect. Down.

We regained our strength and fought back, keeping them from getting enough valid signatures. Up again.

On December 28, 2007, five days before Oregon’s 36 counties opened their domestic-partner registries, the villains delivered a devastating blow. They persuaded a federal court judge to put a stay on domestic partnership. Way down.

Our legal team, fueled by the greenbacks that we hustled up from every corner of our state, flexed their legal brawn and argued back. Our power surged. We rallied outside the courthouse. Two thousand strong, we gathered under the cold, wet winter sky. Speakers urged us to keep the faith. Our rights could remain in legal limbo for months, they cautioned, so stay strong. We huddled in the freezing rain, raising our fists and our voices, determined to make them hear us.

Which, apparently, they did.

On the evening of February 1, I dragged home from working overtime, tired and hungry and hoping Wifey had made dinner.

“Hi honey, I’m homo.” My standard entrance. The aroma of onions and rice on the stove greeted me.

“How’s my domestic partner?” Wifey called from the back room, no doubt sprawled appealingly on the sofa. I needed to join her, to de-spool my work-week stress.

“It’s been a long day.” I hung up my raincoat, kicked off my shoes, put my keys on the hook, and headed for my gal’s comforting embrace.

“Haven’t you heard?” Wifey’s face lit up.

I hadn’t caught any news all day. “Heard what?”

“We won.”

“Won what?” Some Ebay auction? Did our women’s basketball team finally manage an offensive rebound?

“We won. We won.” Wifey couldn’t contain herself. “Wanna get domestic partnered on Monday?”

This took a minute to register. I had braced myself for the upcoming weeks and months until the judge made his decision. But he had ruled from the bench at the end of the hearing that very afternoon. The law would go into effect immediately. We could register first thing Monday morning.

Forget my hangdog, end-of-the-work-week exhaustion. Wifey jumped up and hugged me a good one. We hooted, hopped around the room, and shook our booties in an unrestrained victory dance. You could almost hear Popeye’s hornpipe music swell. We fights to the finich.

Sally Sheklow is a multiple winner in the annual awards presented by the Houston Press Club. She and her spouse of 20 years are now officially domestic partners in their home state of Oregon.

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