As Hawaii continued to debate same-sex marriage earlier this month, I was a bridesmaid in the Washington, D.C., wedding of two of my dearest friends from Honolulu.
It was only about three minutes into the ceremony before I could feel tears welling up. I wasn’t the only one. Both grooms cried, too.
My friends Bud and Kimo were legally married in our nation’s capital, Bud in a Tuxedo that made him look like a movie star and Kimo in his Army dress blues.
I think I’ll always get chicken skin when I recall what it took for them to make it to their wedding day. I first met Bud and Kimo — William and James, if you want to use their formal names like The Washington Post did — back in 2008.
We became friends when I was managing editor of Honolulu Weekly and Kimo was a pediatrics resident at Tripler. Our group was like any other crew of twentysomethings — we swam in the ocean, went to house parties, sang karaoke on the weekends. One of the staples in Bud’s repertoire is “I’m Yours.” You should see the way Kimo looks at Bud while he’s singing.
When Kimo ran the Honolulu Marathon, a group of us stood cheering beneath the ironwoods on Kalakaua Avenue. Bud was beaming as Kimo crossed the finish line. It has always been clear that Bud and Kimo delight in one another’s successes.
They exude the kind of happiness that envelops a room with warmth. But some of the mundane aspects of life didn’t come so easy for my friends. Bud could never be Kimo’s plus-one to a work event — holiday parties, graduation ceremonies and the like were all off limits.
Under the Defense of Marriage Act, Kimo risked being kicked out of the Army if his bosses found out that the love of his life is a man. The institution that Kimo had agreed to risk his life for — and a hospital where he saved the lives of babies, by the way — wouldn’t accept him on the most fundamental level; for whom he loved. Unlike other military spouses, Bud didn’t have access to health care or any of the other benefits the Army then guaranteed only to straight married couples. Kimo’s most essential support system, his family, was invisible in the eyes of the U.S. government.
But five years can be a long time.
I remember commiserating with Bud and Kimo the day former Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil unions bill in 2010. I was crushed. When I called every single state lawmaker in the Hawaii Legislature to ask which way they voted on that legislation, Bud and Kimo were on my mind. On Sept. 20, 2011, the day Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was formally repealed, Kimo sent me a tongue-in-cheek message announcing what he could never before say as an officer in the U.S. Army: “Yep I’m gay.”
And last year, when Sen. Daniel Inouye first told me he supported same-sex marriage, I broke the news to Kimo right before letting Civil Beat readers know. Most of the time, Bud and Kimo handled the bumpy road to equality with far more grace and composure than I could muster. I was impatient. But they were certain that some day they could be married.
On the morning of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA last June, I texted Kimo again: “I’m nervous.” He and Bud, who now live in Washington, D.C., had decided to make the trek to the Supreme Court to await the news. They stood in a crowd gathered at the steps of the court, beneath a huge inscription that reads: “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW” — a detail the officiant in their wedding pointed out. I was in New York City when I heard that DOMA had been ruled unconstitutional. Kimo immediately texted me celebratory photos from the scene.
Journalists are often discouraged from disclosing their personal views, particularly on controversial political matters. But I decided long ago that reporters must be humans first, and I don’t want to grow old to regret staying quiet about my support for so basic a human right.
It’s difficult for me to put into words the joy I felt standing beside Bud and Kimo as they were pronounced married.
I only wish you could have experienced the sense of aloha and lightness in the room when the couple’s parents offered them fresh lei — a wedding gift sent from friends in Honolulu — before the newlyweds recessed down the aisle to a live ukulele rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”
I know my memories of the spectacular wedding party that followed will fade. But that melody will remain forever vivid to me, and this lyric in particular: “The dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
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