Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Two Saturdays ago, Jean and I attended a joyous event – the 25th anniversary celebration of the joining together of Jay Fissette and Bob Rosen.

Jay is a longtime member of the Arlington County Board and, I believe, the first openly gay elected official in Virginia. Bob is an internationally known psychologist and advisor to major CEO’s all over the world.

More than two hundred of their family, friends, and colleagues filled the Clarendon Ballroom for an evening of great food, drink, singing and dancing.

The guests were a remarkably eclectic group. Political leaders from the whole Washington metropolitan area, members and clergy from Bob and Jay’s church, business men and women, young people, Generation Xers, senior citizens like us, and Bob and Jay’s family – all loving friends having a wonderful time.

There was a relatively short but moving program. The young woman who acted as the master of ceremonies told us that the both were her uncles – and the best uncles a girl could have. Then Bob and Jay took the floor, sitting on two high schools. They set up a dialog, answering three questions: What were your first impressions of me? What do I love about you? How have I changed during our 25 years together?

Some of the things we learned: they both are into fitness; they love to travel, though Bob likes first class and five star hotels while Jay is bicycles, coach, and cheap hotels. When they first met, Bob embarrassed Jay on a bicycle excursion with a group of his biking buddies by throwing his bicycle in the back of a truck and passing them all, meeting them at the destination.

What emerged during about fifteen minutes was a wonderful picture of a loving and caring couple who had survived beautifully the viscitudes of time, the tensions from the melding of two different personalities into one, and the daily give and take required for any good marriage to succeed.

After this, the crowd danced the night away. You haven’t experienced anything like seeing Arlington’s finest bouncing around, hands in the air, singing and dancing to songs from “Mama Mia!”

I kept asking myself, “What is wrong with this picture?” The answer, of course, is that they are not married – at least within the meaning of marriage in the legal system. Several of the guests, many friends of ours, were gay and lesbian couples who have been in loving and committed relationships even longer than Jay and Bob. This certainly beats the record of many heterosexual marriages.

But they cannot be married, at least in Virginia and almost every other state in the union. It is a stupid and callous policy. They should be able to get married, and I believe that the long range trend in this country is that eventually they will be able to. It can’t be too soon.

But that is not what the gathering in the Clarendon Ballroom was all about. It was a marvelous evening of camaraderie and celebration of a great marriage, a great partnership. Congratulations to Jay and Bob on their silver anniversary. We are all looking forward to your gold anniversary in the not too distant future.