When Roger Nyhus called Rod Hearne to ask him out on their first date, he was rebuffed. “I told him I was making a pie,” Hearne explains somewhat apologetically. Nyhus, not one to have his amorous instincts thwarted by pastry, persisted. Couldn’t the pie wait? “I was new to the dating game,” Hearne says. The pie waited.
Nyhus is president and CEO of Nyhus Communications, a downtown communications and advocacy firm that handled the PR campaign for the marriage equality bill in the fall of 2011. Hearne is on the board of Equal Rights Washington, one of the seven founding organizations that initially sponsored the bill; he was executive director during the legislative battle over the bill. They knew of each other professionally over the years. But once they got the pie issue out of the way, “we were on a fast track,” according to Nyhus. The two soon became registered domestic partners and bought a Gone with the Wind‒issue mansion on Capitol Hill, which friends refer to as “the Seattle White House.” They estimate more than $500,000 for progressive causes has been raised at events hosted in their home.
Recently, Hearne was invited to a reception for people active in civil rights issues at the other White House, the one in Washington, D.C. “I was the ‘plus one’ on the invitation,” Nyhus says. President Obama gave a short speech, and then flew off in Marine One, the presidential helicopter. It was the first White House event where service members in uniform had been invited to bring their same-sex partners.
Hearne thinks the culture has changed enough that gay marriage just might be possible. “As a culture, we didn’t used to talk about gay people,” he says. “Now people realize that gay people have been a part of their lives all along.”
The couple would very much like to be married in their home state. They envision a wedding in Volunteer Park, in the dahlia garden. In Hearne’s family, there is a tradition that the married couple escapes from the wedding in a vehicle that is not a car. “We were thinking of a rickshaw, or a dog-drawn carriage,” Hearne says. Or maybe their new pal President Obama can spare Marine One for the day.