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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 14, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 50
Profiles in Commitment - John and Dave
Arts & Entertainment
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Profiles in Commitment - John and Dave

Seattle couple caps 42-year relationship with wedding

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

After 42 years together, imagine waking up next to your partner and finally calling him your husband. This is exactly what John Wilkinson experienced days ago when he and his longtime companion, Dave Davenport, said 'I do' at City Hall. The couple, who met on March 24, 1970, were legally wed on December 9, 2012.

You could say it was love at first sight. Or at least an instant attraction.

'It was at the second organizational meeting for what became the Gay Liberation Front, in Portland,' explains Wilkinson by phone. 'At the time I worked for the Willamette Bridge newspaper as the calendar guy and one of the layout people. I was instrumental in calling community organizational meetings, and it was at the second of those that David showed up with friends. I was at the front leading the meeting and he was in the back. I thought, 'Who is that cute blond guy in the back of the room? At that point we were a couple.' They began seeing each other immediately.

'The first date was the next day,' Wilkinson recalls. 'We went out walking in the city together.'

NOW 'LEGAL KIN'
Wilkinson and Davenport were one of many couples who applied and received a marriage license in Portland, when Multnomah County briefly issued them in 2004. Those licenses were voided a year later. But this time, it's the real deal. And for Wilkinson, it takes on new significance even though he and his partner have been together for over four decades.

'For one thing, it makes us legal kin,' Wilkinson notes. 'We had one of Dave's nephews and his wife come up to be with us at the wedding - they were part of the party. We've had a wonderful relationship with Dave's family. I'm not close to my family at all because they're quite a bit older than I am, but with Dave's family we have a real close relationship. They've always considered me to be part of the family, and now legally we're kin. That makes a tremendous emotional difference.'

'It also makes a big difference for us as we enter our retirement,' he continues. 'I've been retired for two and a half years and Dave just retired a couple of months ago. As we're trying to negotiate that, especially if the Supreme Court comes down on our side, it's going to make a huge difference in our security in our older years.'

'IT REALLY WAS MAGICAL'
Your wedding day is supposed to be special, and it certainly appears to have been so for Wilkinson and his now husband.

'It was such a whirlwind, we're still kind of recovering,' he recalls. 'The staff and volunteers were so well prepared, so supportive. Having never done this before, we were in kind of a daze and they knew exactly how to help us through the process. They were prepared and ready, and being greeted by the mayor and his staff was so special. Our judge was just outstanding. It really was magical.'

The special occasion didn't take place without an investment.

'I had to go and buy a new suit,' Wilkinson states. 'Dave already had a nice suit. And we went and bought some new rings. We had rings for about 30 years, when we privately committed to each other when we lived in San Francisco. But it was definitely time to upgrade those rings. So we spent a couple thousand bucks. We didn't expect to, but I guess we're part of the marriage dividend for the state,' he jokes.

When I mention that it only happens once in a lifetime, Wilkinson quickly replies, 'It's true. We kept saying that, that we can't spend this money. But it was really so special.'

KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR
Does Wilkinson have any advice for unwed couples who are considering taking the next big step? 'Go through it with a sense of adventure, a sense of both humor and forgiveness - they're critical to the success of a relationship,' he says confidently. 'If you go into your relationship with an open attitude and a sense that you're both going to grow as a couple and individuals, then your duty to your partner is to be supportive and forgiving, and that will carry you along - and you'll know when the time is right.'

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