Following the November passage of Referendum 74, Queen Anne and Magnolia couples were swept into a wedding-planning frenzy, shopping for wedding cakes, ordering invitations, booking reception venues and preparing to apply for marriage licenses when it became legal on Dec. 6 at midnight.
The scramble to the King County Administrative Building came amid a month of celebration that peaked with 133 wedding ceremonies conducted at Seattle City Hall on Dec. 9, the first day on which the couples could legally wed. The historic approval of same-sex marriage by popular vote is expected to provide a windfall for area wedding vendors.
The Center for Spiritual Living (CSL) hosted “The Big Gay Wedding,” a ceremony for 42 same-sex couples on Saturday, Dec. 15. The historic service included a formal marriage ceremony by CSL’s ministerial team, interspersed with music provided by local vocalists and musicians. Paperwork for the couples was verified prior to the service.
For several decades, CSL has been at the forefront of progressive religious inclusion in the Puget Sound region. All costs for the event, including floral displays, were underwritten by CSL and private donations.
The Rev. Kathianne Lewis, CSL’s senior minister, said, “Lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual individuals and couples have always been welcomed at the Center for Spiritual Living. They are an important and active part of the church’s leadership, staff and volunteer community and personify the expression ‘Love is love.’”
Lower Queen Anne resident Tovah Fairshot, and her partner, Laurie Fairshot, were among the couples at the CSL service. The pair has been together five years. While the couple considers last month’s historic vote a major victory for the gay community, Tovah, a licensed massage therapist and special education major at Western Washington University, said there is still local progress to be made.
“We have been heckled in public a few times,” Laurie said. “But we definitely feel safe in Seattle.”
A day of empowerment
The couple, who had a commitment ceremony three years ago, expected that the ceremony at CSL on Saturday would feel routine. Instead, the day was packed with happy emotion.
“We actually cried more today than we did three years ago,” Tovah explained. “To finally be able to call Laurie my ‘wife’ and to be in the company of all of these couples is very special.”
Laurie, who works at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a clinical data coordinator, agreed with her wife.
“This was the most empowering day ever for us,” Laurie said. “We’re very happy.”
The couple’s former lack of legal marital recognition was particularly frustrating three years ago, when the couple decided to share the same last name.
“It was a struggle to get a name change without a marriage license, especially at the Social Security office,” Laurie said. “Couples with marriage licenses get to just check a box on their license applications to get their names changed.”
While the couple was fortunate enough to share a health-insurance plan for unmarried domestic partners offered through Laurie’s employer, even that had a downside.
“When you’re not legally married, the IRS counts your employer’s health coverage for your domestic partner as income,” Laurie said. “We had to pay an extra tax.”
The struggles of the past were largely forgotten by the couples and their guests as they focused on Lewis’ words.
“Marriage is love coming home,” she said.
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