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Colbert I. King

For Redder, for Bluer

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, February 19, 2005; Page A31

Last week's column about unconventional marriages may have left the impression that I was writing only as a neutral observer. T'ain't so. Count me among those who are in relationships that do not conform to customary practices.

You see, I, too, have a mixed marriage.

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Accordingly, I know all too well what it's like to receive hard stares, to hear whispers behind the back, to lose friends solely because of the one with whom you cohabit.

This may be hard for some to believe, because I happen to work for a newspaper with a reputation for hiring people with reasonably open minds. I also live in a city as welcoming as any in the nation. But, truth be told, my lifelong partner has put friendships and workplace ties to the test.

My life would be otherwise, I'm sure, if my spouse were of a different race. After all, marriage across color lines is no longer the taboo it once was. I even suspect that colleagues and neighbors alike would continue to enfold me as one of their own if my mate happened to be of the same sex -- tolerance and acceptance of gay relationships being what they are these days in most of Washington.

Would that interracial or same-sex marriage were my problem, however. It's much worse. The time has arrived for full disclosure of my mixed marriage -- before someone outs us.

Nearly 43 years ago, I entered into a conjugal bond that, at least in this city, defies an unbending tradition rooted in received natural law. It is a relationship that is considered, in some Washington circles, to be almost immoral and offensive to everything most clear-thinking folk would stand for. So here it is: I hereby confess that I am now, and have been for several decades, married to . . . a Republican.

There, I've said it.

Quick: Bend over, head between your knees. Take deep breaths. Now, I'll answer your questions one by one.

How did it happen?

Gwen and I met in college at Howard University in the late 1950s. We worked as student volunteers in the city's first primary election in 1960, but during that time, our focus was on everything but politics. Things pretty much remained that way even when we married in 1961. It wasn't until 1964 that I learned she had registered as a Republican because, as she tells the story, she had intended to vote for Nelson Rockefeller, who was running against Barry Goldwater in the GOP primary. Well, Rockefeller wasn't so bad, I thought. Still, I voted for Lyndon Johnson.

Aha, so she's among the dying breed of moderate Republicans? That's a relief, is it?

I cannot tell a lie. My wife's life as a Republican has led her to work for the late Pennsylvania senator H. John Heinz III and former governor Richard Thornburgh. She was also a White House deputy assistant to president Ronald Reagan, served as George H.W. Bush's Social Security commissioner and was a member of the current president's Social Security advisory commission, which was co-chaired by Pat Moynihan and Richard Parsons. What's more, my wife is known to keep company with some of those Republicans you read about in the news.

My goodness! How could you, a member of an editorial board of an independent newspaper that has not endorsed a Republican presidential candidate since Dwight D. Eisenhower -- a columnist who, on national security, health care, education, energy and strategies to empower minorities often comes down on different sides from the Bush administration -- be married to HER?


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