Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Jay Fisette and his longtime partner, Bob Rosen, celebrated their 30th anniversary this month in one of the most special ways possible: They were married.
"People ask me, 'Do you feel different?' And, you know, it's yes and no. Because 30 years later, how different can you feel every day? We've been in our house since 1987 in Ashton Heights. It's hard to think we'd feel that much different doing our yard work or taking out the trash. On the other hand, I'd say 10 times a day I reach down and think I lost my ring — because we moved it from the right hand to the left," Fisette told Patch.
"And, you know, there are some other positives, the supportive messages we've gotten and that people have really embraced us. It's a little bit of glow. It's a nice feeling. There's a little different sense of validation, maybe? It's not even validation. It just feels good."
Fisette in 1997 became Virginia's first openly gay elected official. He's currently running for reelection and faces Green Party candidate Audrey Clement.
Fisette and Rosen, the founder and CEO of Arlington-based Healthy Companies International, began seriously discussing marriage after the IRS ruled in late August that same-sex marriages would be recognized for federal tax purposes.
Friends began asking if he and Rosen would get married in June, almost immediately following the Supreme Court's decision that determined the so-called Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. Fisette said he appreciated the symbolism marriage would have given the nature of his position in the public eye. Getting married just because of the DOMA ruling would have been "all symbolic," he said.
But the ruling did pave the way for the IRS decision and for other federal agencies to gradually accept same-sex married couples, he said.
The wedding came together in about two weeks: Once Fisette and Rosen began discussing the matter in earnest, they realized their 30th anniversary was Sept. 17. If they'd tried to go the civil route through the DC courts, they wouldn't have been able to make it happen until late November.
The two have long attended a Unitarian church in Arlington, and so they knew the Rev. Rob Hardies at All Souls Church Unitarian in the district. Hardies made himself available, and he performed the ceremony on Sept. 17 in front of 10 people — Fisette and Rosen's mothers, Fisette's sister and seven friends. They wanted to keep it low-key.
"We chose to try to do it a little more privately. We informed our family, but left it completely open. And our moms said, 'Whether you invite us or not, we're coming,' " Fisette said.
"It's nice, because we've gotten a lot of nice emails and well-wishes. The best one was somebody who said, 'It sounds like it was a pretty long engagement!' "
The couple mutually decided to get married, without a formal proposal, Fisette said. Fisette's schedule with the Arlington County Board means the the honeymoon will have to be virtual for now.
The two will now have the option of filing their federal taxes as a married couple. In the case of a death, the surviving spouse will inherit the other's estate without a tax penalty. And there are other federal benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy that are now extended equally.
"It's a nice feeling that you get when people support you and are happy for you," Fisette said. "And it's happening all around. A lot of our friends who have been together for many years are choosing to get married. I'm going to another wedding at All Souls next week."