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October 30, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Referendum 74 videos: what I learned about love and marriage

Corrected version

I'm a sucker for a good love story. That's why I thoroughly enjoyed producing, shooting and editing a series of videos in conjunction with the editorial board's "I Do" social media campaign in support of approving Referendum 74, which would affirm the Legislature's decision in 2012 to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington.

Please watch all four videos below and share these stories with your friends and family members.Our hope is that you'll see and understand how approving Referendum 74 can actually strengthen our families.

I generally believe there are a lot of sad things happening in this world. Therefore, we need more love, more bravery and more authenticity in human relationships. Life is too short to settle for anything less. (Scroll down for background on the series and to read what I learned about love and marriage from these interviews.)

1. Brandon and Vic Rapez-Betty of Spokane, WA exchanged vows on Sept. 22, 2012. They await the passage of Referendum 74 to make their union official. "I didn't ask Victor to be my domestic partner. I asked him to be my husband," says Brandon.

2. Dottie Neufeld and Carol Brandes of Seattle were together for 38 years and parted by death two years ago. After recounting the amount of paperwork they needed for Dottie to accompany Carol through her many health treatments, Dottie said, "When we choose someone we love and we want to share our lives with them, we want marriage. We want that to be understood as a special relationship, that it's sacred for us as well."

3. Chalu and Niesha "Nikki" Harris-Adams of Parkland were high school friends who reconnected years later, after Chalu's marriage to a man ended in divorce. They raise Chalu's two biological sons together. "I've never been with anyone who really just allowed me to be who I am. That's the legacy I want my children to take forward to their children. You're allowed to be who you are, and you can be happy being who you are," Chalu says.

4. Col. Dr. Grethe Cammermeyer and Diane Divelbess of Whidbey Island have stayed together through tough times, including Cammermeyer's two-year banishment from the military after she revealed she was a lesbian. "You know when somebody special has crossed your path, so you better act," Divelbess said, recalling the early days of their 24-year relationship.

Background on the series:

So how did we find these individuals? They are readers who sent in photos with the "I Do" sign that was printed in the editorial pages of The Seattle Times Sunday on Sept. 16, 2012. Click on this link to view our slideshow and to read our editorials on this issue.

I flipped through our slideshow and read the captions underneath each picture. From there, I contacted several individuals to find out whether they would be willing to share their story with our viewers on camera. In the end, we were lucky to get the cooperation of three couples and one widow from different parts of the state.

Interviewing subjects about love is fun. I swear — when a person feels something that strong inside, it makes them glow on the outside. As I sat behind the camera during these talks, there were moments I wanted to (or did) cry because I realized just how elusive and challenging love can be. It's a powerful force that tests our selfish tendencies and our ability to compromise. But if you're fortunate enough to find the right balance with someone in life — I can't help but feel you have to do what it takes to nurture and strengthen that connection.

That's what these couples have done. They know all too well that marriage is more than just a public display of commitment. There are legal rights involved, too. The institution recognized by the state may not be suitable for some, but it should be an option for all.

When I talk to Brandon, Vic, Dottie, Chalu, Nikki, Grethe, and Diane — I don't see gay people trying to hurt me or change the way I (a heterosexual) lead my life. I see people who've found strength in relationships that complement who they are as smart, talented individuals. I see parents, wives and husbands who want nothing more than to ensure their families are cared for should they fall upon hard times — no questions, raised eyebrows, extra forms or lawyers necessary.

Through their stories, I've witnessed exemplary lives and true love worth aspiring to. If I never have the privilege of saying "I do" to another person, I hope that I'll at least be able to help give that right to my gay and lesbian friends. They are more than ready to take on the responsibilities that come with marriage.

Information in this article, originally published Oct. 30, 2012, was corrected Oct. 31, 2012. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the Legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in 2011. It happened in 2012.

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