Vashon’s faith community holds gathering and vigil in support of marriage equality

As Washington residents prepare to vote on Ref. 74 — which will approve same-sex marriage if passed — the Vashon Unitarian Fellowship will host a public gathering and candlelight vigil in support of marriage equality on Sunday.

The event, called Shelter the Flame, will include Sen. Sharon Nelson, representatives of seven Island faith communities and a variety of musicians.

While ballots for the November election will arrive in mailboxes this week, the event is not intended to be a political event, according to organizer Harmon Arroyo. Vashon has the largest number of same-sex couples in the state, he noted, and holding such a vigil makes sense.

“The idea is to celebrate committed relationships,” he said.

At the gathering, speeches by Sen. Nelson, members of the clergy and others will be interspersed with a series of duets performed by a many well-known Island musicians, including Steve Amsden, Paul Colwell, John Dally, Mark Wells and Jasper Forrester.

Afterward, those who attend will cross the street, light candles and walk to the Methodist Church, where they will hold a 10-minute silent vigil, Arroyo said. Families headed by same-sex couples are cordially invited, he noted, as well as families headed by heterosexual couples and “anyone who wants to come and stand together for human dignity.”

The inspiration to organize the event came to Arroyo when, as a Unitarian, he attended a social justice conference in March and a working group he was part of took up the issue of marriage rights.

“It got me fired up,” he said of the conference. “It was an ignition source.”

Marriage equality is an issue Unitarians have been on the forefront of for many years, he said, and other religious groups have contended with for a long time as well. As he planned the event and contacted several leaders of faith communities he thought might be receptive to participating, most responded affirmatively, though Arroyo is well aware same-sex marriage is a thorny issue for many.

“It’s a complex thing for some people,” he said.

Across the country, since 1998, 32 states have held votes on same-sex marriage, and the measures have been defeated each time, Arroyo noted. He would like Washington to change that.

“We hope to become the first governmental body in the history of the world to have passed and then voted to approve marriage equality,” he said.

If the referendum passes, it will take effect on Dec. 6. Even if it passes here, Washington may not be the first state to do so, as Maryland, Maine and Minnesota are also voting on the issue in November.


Shelter the Flame will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Vashon Theatre.



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