By Gary Thill, special to PQ Monthly
This past Valentine’s Day weekend, thousands of Oregonians showed their love for marriage equality by throwing a party—a house party. If you missed it, it’s not too late. Joining the party is not only fun, it’s critical to help win marriage equality this November.
That’s because house parties and social gatherings allow the Oregon United for Marriage campaign to identify the best supporters and volunteers, raise crucial resources, and have one-on-one conversations about the need to expand the freedom to marry to include all Oregonians next November.
Looking for another reason to host a house party? Take a page from David Kahl and Mark Holloway, a couple so destined to be together even Hurricane Katrina couldn’t keep them apart. Nine years later, when David and Mark decided to get married, they turned their engagement into a house party fundraiser.
But to get to that point, they first had to withstand the storm. Back then, the two were living in New York City and had just met. “What I could tell immediately about Mark was that he had a big heart,” recalls David, owner of Ergo Depot.
They shared another connection: They had both grown up in Louisiana. That link would hit home nine months later when Hurricane Katrina hit. “David’s family was right in the path of it,” remembers Mark, executive director of Social Venture Partners Portland. “It was very dramatic.”
Three hours before the category 5 storm made landfall, all contact was lost. Says David, “The last thing we heard was my sister on the phone screaming, ‘I gotta go! The walls are moving!”
Mark had just started a new job, but he and David quickly made plans to head for home. “He didn’t know if his family was alive at that point. He was really panicked, and I wanted to be there to support him,” Mark says.
Fortunately, David’s family had made it to safety. But in the storm’s aftermath, he decided to move back to Louisiana while Mark returned to New York. “There are certain things in your life that just shake you,” David says. “9/11 was one, and this was one.”
It also rocked their relationship. “I knew I loved Mark, but neither one of us knew if it was going to last,” recalls David.
Then David found a new love: Portland. Would Mark join him? “The first thing I thought was, ‘Am I willing to move for this guy?’” says Mark. “But I didn’t think we’d gotten to the end of what was possible for us.”
Turns out, they hadn’t—not by a long shot. Since coming to Portland, David has taken Ergo Depot from a fledgling company to a $6 million business. Mark, who also started as a “one man show,” has since helped grow SVP Portland into a staff of 10.
And nine years later, the two are engaged to be married. Sure, they could go across the river to tie the knot. But for David and Mark, it’s about being recognized in a state that’s been integral to who they’ve become.
That’s why they turned their engagement into a house party fundraiser for Oregon United for Marriage.
“We couldn’t have done this anywhere else,” David says. “That’s why the opportunity to get married in Oregon is so important.”
To find out more, go to www.oregonunitedformarriage.org/houseparty/.