Native Astorian lauds ‘victory for equality’

<p>Paul Rummell, left with partner Ben West pose holding their marriage certificate with their son, Jay Quan Rummell-West.</p>

After a very long day, Monday, Astoria native Paul Rummell and partner Ben West spoke of the victory for equality in the state of Oregon. The Portland couple were plaintiffs in the lawsuit ruled on by U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane overturning Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Rummell was the 14th child of 16 born to Marie and Don Rummell. His father worked for the city of Astoria for 38 years. Paul Rummell attended St. Mary, Star of the Sea School through eighth grade and graduated from Astoria High School in 1988.

Monday’s ruling was “a tremendous victory for our state in pursuing marriage equality,” Rummell said. “This is the 18th state now that recognizes same-sex marriage. It is a huge, huge victory for equality.”

In the lawsuit, as plaintiffs for the Basic Rights Education Fund, West and Rummell reported that the existing laws discriminated against gay and lesbian couples. As a U.S. Air Force veteran, Rummell was denied a low-interest veteran’s loan to buy a house because West’s income was not considered with his income, McShane’s document stated.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuits revealed unfairness in treatment that married couples receive, including:

• inability to file joint tax returns;

• medical directives;

• retirement benefits;

• estate-planning benefits;

• joint ownerships;

• student financial aid packages;

• relocation benefits for a partner;

• taxes on health care benefits;

• gift taxes.

After being together a few years, Rummell and West had a commitment ceremony performed by then-Portland Mayor Sam Adams in 2010. Rummell said it was held on a mountain overlooking the Tillamook Valley on a lovely August day. It wasn’t official, “but 110 of our closest family and friends attended.”

Now they can choose to get married if they want. They applied for a marriage license Monday, but will wait to have a private, intimate ceremony.

West and Rummell have an 8-year-old son, who attends Holy Cross parochial school in Portland. Both parents are active in the school, participating in fundraisers and other activities. Rummell said they have a strong faith community that is supportive and loving.

Astoria connections

“I love Astoria.” Rummell said. “It’s a small town with great values. You know people. You can’t avoid meeting people you know walking down street. It is a close-knit wonderful community.”

Rummell has volunteered at VOCA camp in Clatsop County and is friends with Margaret Frimoth and Sharyn Hedbloom, who applied for a marriage license in Clatsop County Monday.

Rummell said in Astoria he helped open Cannery Cafe and assisted at Baked Alaska.

“There are many people in Astoria who are brave and can now choose to marry,” Rummell said. He said they were backed in the lawsuit by a body of people who really advocated for them, including Astoria resident Marco Davis.

State significance

At a vigil April 22 in Eugene, when West and Rummell, as plaintiffs, first met with the judge, Rummell said a woman from the crowd came up and gave him a hug. “You’re the one,” she said. “You are being sent to represent my family.” She was in the process of adopting a child with her partner.

“She was very touched by having a chance to meet us,” Rummell said. “She wouldn’t let go.”

“It’s a victory not just for us, but for those who live in rural places,” Rummell said. “We are representing our community for the state of Oregon.”

“This is very historical, and McShane expressed it eloquently,” Rummell said.

At the end of McShane’s decision, he wrote, “Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other ... and rise.

West said, “Oregon’s history hasn’t always been history of equality. Not all have been treated equal, but it is exciting that Oregonians do get it right. We are hopeful that people will be supportive and come together as a community. We are excited for all the families who are now able to say, “I do.”

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