For Kitsap couples, the wait is over

POULSBO — Phil Bonderud and David Smith of Olalla had planned for a wedding with family and friends in August 2014, but decided to go through the legal requirements “sooner rather than later” despite Washington state voters approving same-sex marriage.

“Even if the law says it’s permanent, when you’ve dealt with this inequality for your whole life there is a level of disbelief that it really is permanent,” Bonderud said in an email.

Their trepidation was eased somewhat on Wednesday, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Defense Against Marriage Act, which barred gay and lesbian married couples from receiving some 1,000 federal benefits, was unconstitutional.

Among the benefits is the right to file tax returns jointly as married couples, and the right of a surviving spouse to receive Social Security benefits.

“We knew DOMA was unconstitutional and now, having the Supreme Court say it, means that the law will treat us equally,” Bonderud said in an email. “Many of the arguments against gay marriage can be heard from decades past with regard to women voting and integration. Same argument, different group of people being vilified.

“All that aside, over the past nine years barely a day goes by that I don’t find myself feeling more in love with David. Barely a day goes by that I don’t try to find a new way to bring joy to his life and ours. Being able to have the same rights and protections as heterosexual couples is a huge relief.”

Smith said the “real work” for same-sex couples is “in the living of our lives together to show the opponents of freedom of marriage that we don’t want to change their relationships, invade their families, places of worship or school-rooms,” he said in an email.

“There will be lots of spiteful people on the other side of the marriage debate who will see yesterday’s ruling as yet another reason to hate us and that mind-set will never change.

“I plan to quietly live my life of love and partnership with my husband as a positive member of my larger family unit. None of my family seems to have any problems with our marriage. I don’t see why perfect strangers should object.”

Washington voters legalized same-sex marriage in November. Currently, 11 other states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. California will become the 13th.

The court decision does not legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, but extends federal benefits to married same-sex couples recognized by their state.

Bonderud and Smith were married at the Kitsap County Courthouse in Port Orchard on April 9, surrounded by family and friends.

“It’s about time,” said Dan Smith, David’s father. “We force kids not to [come out] because they’re frightened” of how their parents may react.

There was some laughter during the ceremony — especially after the judge accidentally said “wife” at one point, which Bonderud and Smith shrugged off. There were also a lot of tears.

Smith said the ceremony was more for the rest of the family, to tell everyone he and Bonderud are “official.”

“I never thought it would happen,” Smith said. Both Smith and Bonderud said they felt relieved afterward, but their faces expressed something more like elation.


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