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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 30, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 48
Profiles in commitment
Arts & Entertainment
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Profiles in commitment

Meet two longtime couples who are now planning marriage

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

STUART AND JOHN
Stuart Wilber and John Breitweiser met in Chicago 35 years ago. Wilber, who works for Sub Pop Records and Breit-?weiser, an artist, had a strong intrinsic connection from the start.

'I don't know if it was love at first sight,' Wilber told SGN. 'But it was pretty close.'

Wilber said that after they met, they spent one night apart from each other, and, realizing their connection, have spent pretty much every night together since.

After Chicago, the couple relocated to Southern California. Living only a few miles from tolerant Laguna Beach, they expected a warm reception - but for the most part they got the cold shoulder from Orange County's largely conservative population.

'We were an out Gay couple in Chicago, and we weren't going back into the closet just because we were in Orange County, so we became very political,' said Wilber. 'John's work became very political.'

Politics and activism have been a major part of their lives ever since. Wilber started volunteering for GLAAD in the late '80s and the couple attended the 1993 March on Washington. After the two moved to Seattle, Wilber became involved with Seattle OUTprotest and helped promote the 2009 National Equality March while working to get Referendum 71 (the ballot measure that legalized domestic partnerships in 2009) approved.

'Five to six years ago, it had never occurred to either one of us that getting married would be a possibility in our lifetime,' said Wilber. 'We have seen a great many changes. When I first came out, it was dangerous to ask somebody out in a bar - you didn't know if it was an undercover policeman. Now we're getting to the point where we're giving marriage. The transition is mind-boggling.'

'The engagement has been 35 years and it's been great. We've seen a lot of progress and we've been out for all of those 35 years, save a couple. I see being out and telling your story as the most successful form of activism there is,' Wilber told SGN. 'It isn't just about getting married. We went to Olympia and listened to the debate in the Senate. ... I realized they weren't just talking about my getting married, they were talking about whether or not I was a real person.'

Wilber told SGN that the people he saw who were for marriage equality all seemed to know someone who was Gay or Lesbian, but those speaking against it talked as if Gays and Lesbians 'weren't quite people.'

'I do equate the struggle for full federal equality for LGBT people with the struggle for full federal equality for women and for Afro-Americans,' said Wilber.

It just so happened that the two found themselves watching the film Amistad that night, and witnessed the same message.

'They were talking about people [slaves] as if they weren't people,' said Wilber. 'And I realized that they were talking about John and I as if we were not real people, that we were not entitled to the same considerations as them and their children.'

'We're best friends,' Wilber told SGN. 'We are very, very different people. If we have issues, we talk about them and we do sometimes have issues.'

A HAPPY COINCIDENCE
'Our 35th anniversary is December 8th, [and] the first day we're allowed to get married is December 9th,' said Wilber. 'The date was so significant that we felt we needed to do it on the first day. Planning a wedding that quickly is not easy, but the invitations are out and everything's ready.'

The two will marry at a neighbor's house in Seattle's Madison Valley neighborhood. It will be a simple ceremony with friends and family from both sides.

'This is a wonderful, wonderful step in a wonderful state. I see this as an incentive to continue working on full federal equality,' said Wilber. 'The commitment is there. A piece of paper is not going to change the way John and I feel about each other - it is a step on the road to full federal equality.'

QUE AND VIVIAN
Que Areste and Vivian Robb will soon have the same last name. They haven't decided yet what it will be, but told SGN they're 'working on it.' The two met in the spring of 1979 and maintained a long-term friendship before they officially began dating in the mid-'90s.

For the duration of their friendship, Robb was married to a man, Jim. Areste would visit Robb and her husband in San Francisco quite often over the years, traveling either for work or just to see the two of them. The three were all pretty close. Jim, however, became seriously ill.

'Find someone like Que,' said Jim to Vivian, knowing he might die soon.

After Jim passed away, Areste and Robb maintained a long-distance relationship for nine years, becoming domestic partners in San Francisco on November 3, 2003. The couple bought a condo together in Seattle's Madison Valley neighborhood in 2004.

Illness and surgeries unfortunately became something the two would face again in their relationship. Areste has had three major surgeries since Robb moved to Seattle, but through all three of them the two have fought together.

Areste and Robb have also faced financial hard times hand in hand. Areste, a doctor who runs her own practice, had to essentially restart her business from scratch after her surgeries, and Robb began working as her receptionist to ease the transition.

Every time the two are in an elevator, they share a kiss - an intimate tradition that dates back to their long-distance relationship.

'We couldn't wait and started kissing in the elevator,' Areste told SGN. 'We've been doing it ever since.'

THE PROPOSAL
'If 74 passes, would you consider marrying me?' Areste asked Robb a few months ago.

'Are you proposing?' replied Robb.

It wasn't the actual proposal - that came later. Robb was reading in bed when Areste got down on one knee and presented her with one of the green Washington United for Marriage rings that the campaign used as a fundraiser.

'We've been through sickness and health. We've been through richer and poorer. Will you marry me? This is a proposal,' said Areste.

Robb smiled and said yes.

'She's been more affectionate since the marriage proposal,' said Areste.

The two plan on marrying in May. They haven't set a date, but know they want to get married outside, here in Seattle. Their rings are coming from Goldmine Design, an artisan jeweler based in downtown Seattle. Last week, they had a 'casting party' with friends. The couple plans on having local pianist Victor Janusz do the music for the ceremony.

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