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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 14, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 50
Judges had a great time, too
Arts & Entertainment
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Judges had a great time, too

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Happy couples who got married December 9, the first day same-sex weddings could be performed in Washington, were not the only ones who enjoyed the day. The judges who performed the ceremonies were also delighted.

One judge, who asked not to be identified by name because 'the focus should be on the couples and on the occasion, and not on me,' told SGN he was 'amazed' at the overwhelming response from fellow judges who rushed to volunteer for the wedding ceremonies.

'We were told at first that we'd need eight judges,' he said. 'Within 40 minutes of the announcement [of the City Hall ceremonies] the city realized we'd need more.

'Once the call went out, the response from judges was so overwhelming, not all the judges who volunteered could participate.'

The judge, who helped to organize the event at City Hall, gave the city credit for an 'outstanding event.'

'They had everything prepared,' he said. 'Decorations, food, music. It was amazing.'

'People should know that judges overwhelmingly support this step,' he added. 'It's overdue. The government is finally doing what it should have done long ago.'

ACTIVIST HISTORY
For Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel, the wedding ceremony was also an occasion to reminisce about her own experience as an LGBT rights activist.

'I was remembering doing door-to-door polling for Initiative 13,' she told SGN, 'and I thought 'how some things do change!'

I-13 was a 1978 attempt to repeal Seattle's pioneering ordinances barring discrimination against Gays and Lesbians in housing and employment. In a major victory for the LGBT community, voters overwhelmingly rejected the initiative, 63%-37%.

'That's when I did my very first public speaking gigs,' Rietschel continued. 'They sent me to debate someone from the other side on TV. We learned by doing in those days - we didn't have leadership trainings or workshops, you just went out and did it.'

Rietschel married six couples December 9, trading off with another judge, she said.

'Some of the couples were really shy,' she recalled. 'They could hardly say their vows.'

EMOTIONAL SCENE
'Some had raucous crowds of friends and family with them,' Rietschel continued. 'The photographer who was there just burst into tears with every wedding. She must have used up a whole box of Kleenex!

'And the band that showed up outside, and the cheering people - some of them didn't even have someone who was getting married, they just came to show support - it was such a coming together of the community! It was one of the days that you're really happy to be a judge.'

Judge Kimberley Prochnau agreed.

'It was a real thrill,' she said. 'I struggle to find the right word to describe it.'

Prochnau, who performed one wedding at the County Courthouse and then crossed the street to do several more at City Hall, said two couples particularly stood out in her mind.

'I had two moms,' she said, 'and their two little boys were dressed in tuxedoes. Another couple had been together for 30 years, and had known each for 40. It was extremely heartwarming.'

Asked if she ever expected to be marrying Gay and Lesbian couples, Prochnau answered, 'I knew it would come in time. Just talking to my two grown children and talking to their friends - it's like 'Duh! Of course.'

'And I've done many same-sex adoptions over the years, and seen some of those couples come back and adopt more children, and watched their relationships develop. It's strengthening for our community to see people making a commitment to each other. It strengthens all our relationships.'

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