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Seattle advocacy pioneer recalls struggle for marriage equality

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The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
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December 13, 2012

Last week, moments before the first same-sex marriage license was signed, King County Executive Dow Constantine told the story of two gay rights pioneers who had their license application denied in the same building 41 years earlier. On Sept. 20, 1971, John Singer and Paul Barwick wanted to get visibility for the subject that wasn't openly talked about. Their application was denied, and they later lost a lawsuit arguing the denial was unconstitutional. "If you had asked me if I thought I'd ever see legal gay marriage in my life I would have said no, of course not," Barwick said Tuesday from his home in San Francisco. "And to be able to see those people getting married – it brought tears to my eyes." A friend e-mailed him the video of Constantine's remarks, and Barwick loved the images of married gay couples coming out of Seattle City Hall to cheering crowds. His favorite sign was one that said, "Congratulations. Sorry it took so long." His 1971 case, Singer v. Hara, has often been cited by attorneys on both sides of gay marriage, either saying the courts made the correct decision or an outdated one. Barwick, 65, was surprised to learn that Lloyd Hara – the auditor who was told to deny the application – is now King County Assessor. Barwick Googled him, found his office phone number, and they caught up this week for the first time since 1971.