Doug Ramsay photo, dougramsayphoto.photoshelter.com
Cindy Sherwood, owner and operator of French Creek Manor reception hall near Snohomish, prepares a table for a wedding-themed murder mystery dinner on Saturday, Feb. 18. In the past two years, Sherwood has rented out the facility to three same-sex commitment ceremonies.
Washington becomes 7th state to legalize gay marriage
EVERETT - At Bar Myx, Everett’s only gay bar, the owners opened bottles of champagne Monday night to celebrate Washington’s landmark legislation signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier that day.
“It’s kind of like the bars of hate are being lifted off from the community,” Chris Dainard of Granite Falls said.
On Monday, Feb. 13, Gregoire signed same-sex marriage into law, making Washington the seventh state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage.
The law goes into effect in June. The law, though, is being challenged by Preserve Marriage Washington, which filed Referendum 74 to overturn the law. If the referendum gets 120,577 signatures by June 6, the day before the law goes into effect, the law will be put on hold until a vote in the November elections.
“I don’t have anybody I can marry right now, and maybe I won’t, but don’t tell me I can’t,” Dolores Carney, 53, of Seattle said from inside Bar Myx. The gay and lesbian community has been “treated like second class citizens like the blacks” for years, Carney said.
Carney said her church would likely marry her.
Everett couple Greg Warrener, 37, and Carl Franks, 47, are looking forward to their wedding day. They met 13 years ago and filed for a domestic partnership in 2009.
Franks wants a big wedding, and Warrener’s been planning to have a ceremony for a few years now.
“I want a wedding where my friends and family can come and be welcome and now we can,” Warrener said.
Anthony Michaels, 44, called the law a heralding of change. He grew up in Everett, moved to Seattle and came back to Everett recently.
Michaels said Everett has changed over time. He’s been “out” for years.
Everett’s become much more open to gays, he said. Twenty years ago, a gay bar never would have existed, he said. In high school, “If I expressed my gayness, I would have been crucified,” Michaels said.
Everett’s gay community is prominent enough now that it’s no longer underground, Michaels said.
“I’d love to get married in Everett; how cool would that be?” he said.
Dainard of Granite Falls said residents in small towns will become more accepting over time. He came here from Sacramento and spent years volunteering with Equality California, a LGBT civil rights advocacy group.
“Granite Falls has a lot of good, honest people who are eventually going to be open,” Dainard said.
Dustin Pohll, a former president of Mariner High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, said he didn’t think the state would legalize same-sex marriage this quickly.
“I’m surprised but in the best way possible,” Pohll said. The public’s attitude on homosexuals changed over the past five years exponentially, he said.
“I’m just glad we get the opportunity and chance to be considered equals,” Albert Ferguson, 30, of Everett said.
Snohomish’s wedding industry
The wedding industry in Snohomish is burgeoning, and some wedding venue owners aren’t sure whether the law will mean additional business.
The owners the Tribune talked to look forward to same-sex couples marrying at their venues. Multiple others did not return the Tribune’s phone call and one declined to comment.
The city calls itself the wedding capital of the Northwest. It has its own networking group of about 100 businesses that promote each other through the Snohomish Wedding Guild.
Cindy Sherwood, owner of French Creek Manor, looks forward to the additional business.
“I’m in the business of doing weddings for people,” Sherwood said. “I have no problem with having gay people getting married in my place.” If any of her employees have a problem, they are allowed to skip work that day, she said.
In the past two years, Sherwood has rented out French Creek Manor to three same-sex commitment ceremonies.
The Snohomish Wedding Guild’s only requirement to join is based on location. Guild member venues must be within the boundaries of the Snohomish School District. The guild doesn’t take a stance on whether or not a venue will rent out to same-sex ceremonies for entry into the guild.
Lynn Hallstrom, owner of A Chapel on Swan’s Trail in the Fobes Hill area, welcomes same-sex weddings at her venue. She said the guild’s stance shouldn’t be a problem.
“I think it’s up to the individual. Just because this law has passed doesn’t mean everyone will be OK with it,” Hallstrom.
Hallstrom began advertising in a wedding magazine targeted to the homosexual community two weeks ago.
“I would be open to it. To me, loneliness is a very sad thing,” Hallstrom said.
At French Creek Manor, a former farmer’s grange, there are large ballrooms and decks. It started being rented out for weddings in 2004.
Sherwood hasn’t received any calls to set up a same-sex wedding yet, but it’s too early to be getting those calls, she said.
Sherwood sees no reason why other private wedding venues wouldn’t offer same-sex weddings.
“From a business sense, that’s dumb, you’re taking a whole segment who can spend money away,” Sherwood said.
The UCLA School of Law Williams Institute, which focuses on sexual orientation policy, estimates 9,500 Washington same-sex couples will marry within the first three years the law is in place.
The weddings provide a nice economic boost.
The Institute estimates legalization will create $88 million in tourism and wedding industry spending during that first three years, with $57 million in the first year. About $8 million in tax revenue would go into state coffers in the first year, the Institute reports in a 2012 study.
The study does not consider out-of-state couples coming here to get married.
The average wedding is priced at about $25,000.
Washington has about 9,300 domestic partnerships registered with the state.
Washington’s law, as signed by Gregoire, converts all civil unions into legal marriages in 2014. It gives same-sex married couples all of the rights, responsibilities and benefits heterosexual married couples currently enjoy.
There are no residency requirements to be married in Washington. People from other states can come here to get married.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published Feb. 22, 2012