An Olympic Hills lesbian couple, who married in 2013, say they are free to be who they are because of the struggles of prior generations.
Emily Kelley-Brown smiles when she tells about reconnecting, through Facebook, with a man who had been her date to a homecoming dance when she was in Arlington’s Lakewood High School, class of 2002.
In their online exchange, the classmate broke a piece of news: “I’m gay.”
To which Kelley-Brown responded. “I am, too.”
The 41st annual Seattle Pride Parade starts at 11 a.m. on Fourth Avenue downtown. Details: http://seattlepride.org/events/parade/
It seemed simple, with neither party feeling a need to disguise a fundamental part of their identity, she said.
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But Kelley-Brown, 31, said she knows that generations of gays and lesbians went through difficulties, discrimination and danger to help create the ease she felt in that exchange.
“The struggle of everyone before us made it possible for us to be who we are,” said Kelley-Brown.
She and her wife of two years, Ashley, 29, plan to be at Sunday’s Seattle Pride Parade. Outside their Olympic Hills home they are flying a rainbow-hued flag honoring LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Pride Month.
Friday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide was a source of great joy in the Kelley-Brown household.
It rekindled the exuberance the couple felt in September 2013, when they were wed in a ceremony attended by 15 friends and relatives, followed by a reception for 130 at Seattle’s Fremont Abbey.
On that occasion, “We wanted to celebrate that we live in a state that had legalized it (marriage equality),” said Ashley Kelley-Brown.
Washington voters approved same-sex marriage in 2012. The number of states allowing same-sex marriage had climbed to 37 before Friday’s ruling.
Historians date the modern gay-rights movement to 1969, when patrons of the New York gay bar Stonewall Inn fought back against police harassment.
In recent years, the momentum for approval of same-sex marriage has escalated.
Emily and Ashley Kelley-Brown said they expected nationwide legality of same-sex marriage to happen, but not in one bold stroke.
“I’m going to bask in this moment … to soak it all in,” Ashley said.
But she said the court ruling doesn’t end homophobia.
Discrimination lingers in areas such as parental rights, she said. Suicide rates continue to be elevated among young people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual. Harassment and bullying are still real.
And coming out can still be difficult.
“There’s always that fear that you’re not going to be accepted,” she said.
In her high-school years in Beaverton, Ore., Ashley Kelley-Brown was just beginning to discover her own sexual identity.
“I knew there was an attraction (to other girls), but I wasn’t sure why,” she said.
Years later, when she told her parents, her mother was immediately supportive. Her father also supported her, she said, but suggested she might be safer if she kept it a secret.
He since has fully accepted her, and walked her down the aisle at her wedding.
Emily Kelley-Brown remembers coming out to her parents in response to an inquiry they made periodically:
“They would ask, ‘Are you dating?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I am dating. But this time I am dating a girl.’ ”
Her parents were supportive, she said, as many of the people she has known or encountered have been. “I don’t get negativity as much as I get curiosity,” she said.
Emily, a dietitian, and Ashley, a nurse, met through friends at a gay skate night four years ago. Ashley was immediately interested but didn’t follow up on it until a couple of months later.
“It’s hard to flirt on skates,” she said.