TACOMA — Derrick Peacock was desperately looking for the wedding rings he was about to exchange with fiancé Pablo Monroy on Saturday in Port Orchard.
“The most important piece of the ceremony,” an exasperated Peacock said when he found Monroy. “Where are they?”
Relax, Monroy told Peacock. They were safe in his car.
Peacock was wearing a tuxedo and Monroy was dressed in full-dress military uniform. He is a cavalry scout with the Army National Guard. During a previous four-year stint in the Navy, Monroy deployed to the Persian Gulf twice on the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.
Monroy, 24, and Peacock, 25, are the faces of a new generation of lesbians and gays entering a world that has radically changed in the quarter-century span of their lives. The couple is embarking on a life that previous generations of gay people never thought possible. A life that includes serving openly in the military, raising children and expecting to be legally married.
Society is struggling with the moral and legal issues of same-sex marriage. And as Peacock’s and Monroy’s nuptials showed those struggles occur even at weddings among their closest family members and friends.
The couple set their wedding date when the Legislature legalized gay marriage earlier this year. They continued with their plans even with legalization on hold pending the outcome of Referendum 74 on the November ballot.
Peacock, a Kalama native, and Monroy, born and raised in Pasco, casually knew each other from high school leadership camps. So Monroy thought Peacock looked familiar three years ago when he ran into him in a Seattle bar.
“I told him, ‘You look like this one kid who had five outfit changes a day’ ” at camp, Monroy remembered.
“I like to look good,” Peacock said as the couple recounted the story at the Tacoma condo they share with miniature dachshund Roxie.
“We were just waiting for you to figure it out,” a friend told Peacock when he came out as gay in high school.
His family was another story.
“It shocked us. We had no idea,” father Thom Peacock said Saturday under a swaying alder tree at Cedar Springs event center as the ceremony was about to begin.
Peacock’s younger brother Nick, 16 at the time, remembers coming into the living room and finding his mother in tears.
“Derrick has something he wants to tell you,” Nick remembers his grim-faced father saying to him.
Nick, as Peacock recalls it, “freaked” when he learned his brother was gay, and didn’t fully come to terms with his brother’s sexuality until he joined him as a student at Central Washington University.
“A lot of who I am today I owe to that guy,” Nick said Saturday after serenading his brother and new brother-in-law with a song. Derrick and Monroy have counseled Nick on career choices. Nick is about to enter the Navy as a nuclear engineer.
Monroy was brought up in a large, traditional Catholic Mexican-American family. He is the eldest of 12 siblings. After Monroy’s parents divorced, he was raised by his mother, Alma, and stepfather, Elido Garza Jr.
When Monroy came out in high school, “None of my friends believed me,” Monroy said.
An athlete and Sea Cadet in high school Monroy didn’t fit neat gay stereotypes.
“I didn’t see the signs,” his mother said Saturday.
Monroy and his mother were most fearful of how his stepfather, who he considers his father, would take the news.
“Everybody said, ‘Don’t tell him,’?” Monroy recalled. But Elido Garza was the most supportive of the family, Monroy said.
“There’s not anything I wouldn’t do for my kids,” Elido Garza said. “I would jump over mountains.”
Peacock and Monroy have a same-sex marriage but it’s a mixed one. Peacock is a Democrat. Monroy is a Republican — a hard-core Republican.
“Best wedding present ever! Go Romney!” Monroy wrote on his Facebook page Friday night when presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Monroy volunteers on Republican campaigns all over the state and is a staunch supporter of Republican Rob McKenna’s run for governor.
“When I first met him I said, ‘What? How is that possible?’” Peacock said of his partner’s politics.
Peacock wasn’t the only one surprised at Monroy’s right-of-center perspective. Monroy is a member of the 27th District Republican Party. One of its members tried to get Monroy kicked out of the group when she found out he was gay – not out of prejudice but because she thought he was a spy.
Peacock, who worked on the Obama campaign while in college, said Monroy has made him more moderate. Peacock has brought “a lot of humanity in to my views,” Monroy said.
Still, Peacock said, “There are still times we disagree. We generally try not to talk about it because it starts arguments.”
Last September the pair, along with their families, took a Caribbean cruise. During the trip Monroy asked Peacock’s father for permission to marry him.
“It’s Mexican tradition,” Monroy said. “If I didn’t, my mom would have said, ‘I raised you better.’ ”
The gesture impressed Peacock’s parents.
“I respected that,” Thom Peacock said. “That goes to show you the type of character he has. He respects the family unit. He respects the head of the family.”
Monroy proposed to Peacock on St. Thomas island, on bended knee and in front of their assembled families.
“The first thing my mom said was, ‘I want grandkids,’?” Peacock said. The couple plans to adopt.
The week before the wedding was filled with tux fittings, flower purchases and a pair of bachelor parties. Monroy’s was peacock-themed; the venue and Monroy himself were decorated with feathers. Peacock’s was quinceañera-themed complete with piñatas and a nacho bar.
“They tried to separate us, but both parties eventually merged,” Peacock said.
Just hours after those celebrations, Monroy was devastated when one of his groomsmen backed out of the wedding. The longtime friend told Monroy he couldn’t morally support gay marriage.
Previously, the friend had urged Monroy to propose to Peacock.
“He’s the one who told me to man up and do it,” Monroy said.
Hurt by the loss of his friend, Monroy couldn’t sleep that night.
“He didn’t fundamentally support who I am as a person,” he said. “I still don’t understand it.”
As guests gathered Saturday, Peacock’s great-grandmother, Joyce Bakken, 86, and grandmother, Sandy Rolfe, 68, were sitting in the shade. Bakken said she loved her great-grandson and wanted him to be happy.
“I’m a Christian and I go by the Bible, but I believe God loves a homosexual person just as much as he does anyone else,” Bakken said.
Rolfe said her grandson’s orientation has been a struggle for her and her husband.
“It’s hard to see Derrick live a different lifestyle than what we’re used to,” she said.
Nevertheless they were there to support him because they loved him, she said.
White chairs – enough to seat the 100-plus family and friends – were set up on a grassy knoll overlooking a pond.
To the tune of Bruno Mars’ “Marry You,” the wedding party danced down the grassy aisle and took their places at the altar. Each groom had a best man and a maid of honor.
When it came time to say their vows, both men pulled out their smartphones on which they had stored them.
“I promise to love and cherish you,” Peacock told Monroy.
“I can’t promise not to drive you up the wall,” Monroy told Peacock in one of many references during the day to Monroy’s apparent inability to do dishes.
Then Monroy went off script.
“I just want to tell you I love you.”
The two men kissed and then climbed into a rowboat. As guests watched, Monroy rowed the couple across the pond to the reception. There, Peacock hugged his new mother-in-law.
“I guess I’ll start calling you Mom now,” Peacock told Garza.
“You should have done that a long time ago,” Garza replied.
After the couple cut the cake using Monroy’s military sword, the pair took their first dance together while their parents shot video. “Everyone in the world deserves love and companionship,” Thom Peacock said.