Peninsula wedding plans blossom following passage of same-sex marriage referendum
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Retired Coast Guard officers Diana Wickman, left, and J.P. Persall sit in the dining room of their Happy Valley home near Sequim. In the right photo are Jim Larson, left, and Brandon Ellard, owners of Water Street Creperie in Port Townsend. -- Peninsula Daily News photos by Keith Thorpe and Charlie Bermant

By Leah Leach, Charlie Bermant and Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — Happy Valley residents Diana Wickman and Judy Persall hope to get married as the new year begins, now that the passage of Referendum 74 has made same-sex marriages legal.

“We're shooting for Jan. 1,” Wickman said.

“We want to ring in the new year with the wedding.”

Referendum 74, a measure that put the state Legislature's passage of gay marriage to a vote of the people, passed by 1,415,151 votes, or 52.9 percent, to 1,262,691 votes, or 47.15 percent.

Supporters declared victory Wednesday, while opponents conceded the race Thursday.

On the North Olympic Peninsula, Clallam County rejected the measure by 18,394 votes, or 52.6 percent, to 16,548 votes, or 47.4 percent, while Jefferson County approved it with 11,690 votes, or 63.3 percent, to 6,765 votes, or 36.6 percent.

Statewide passage means that the first same-sex marriage licenses can be issued Dec. 6.

The state requires a three-day waiting period after getting a license, so the first weddings can take place Dec. 9.

“We've got a lot of friends who are going to get married, too,” said Wickman, 47, adding that she and Persall, 59, are considering a large ceremony, with several couples taking vows.

“We're thinking of a big wedding,” Wickman said, but “we're not sure . . . we haven't broached the subject to others yet.”

But one way or the other, the two, who have been a couple for 10 years, “are going to do it the first of the year,” Wickman said. “We're really excited about it.

“My folks called me last night, and they are excited as well,” she added.

“It's really not about religion, in our view and in a lot of people's view,” she said.

“It is about civil rights.”

Both Wickman and Persall are decorated veterans who retired as lieutenant commanders from the U.S. Coast Guard after 22-year careers, Persall in 2004 and Wickman in 2009.

They were among those who participated in a letter-writing campaign against the “don't ask, don't tell” policy begun in 1993 and repealed in 2010 that had forced them to remain silent about their relationship.

Among those who might be interested in a large ceremony for several couples are Kelly Olson, 52, and Cynthia Weston, 57, of Sequim.

“We are planning on getting married,” Olson said, adding that they have not yet set a date.

“We just hit our 27th year, and we figured there's no better time than now since it's legal, at least in the state,” Olson said Saturday.

“This is amazing,” she said. “I never thought we'd see this in my lifetime.”

The two now have a registered domestic partnership.

“We have to carry cards in our wallets,” said Olson as she also recalled memories of the two lying about their relationship to protect their jobs and having difficulty renting places to live.

“It's crazy, the stuff we had to go through over the years,” she said.

She now hopes that as more states legalize same-sex marriage, “the federal government will wake up, and we will get the federal rights and benefits associated with being married.”

If a ceremony with several couples were organized, Kris Slack, 62, and Alda Siebrands, 62, of Port Angeles “would be in the crowd cheering them on,” Slack said Saturday.

The two, who have been a couple for 15 years, were wed in Victoria seven years ago and don't see a need for another wedding, Slack said.

“We're not anticipating having to do anything further than to have our current marriage acknowledged,” she said.

Some county auditor offices will extend their hours Dec. 6-7 or add weekend hours to accommodate what the state auditor's association believes will be long lines of same-sex couples with marriage applications, Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand said.

Rosand already has received several calls and an email from same-sex couples seeking information on how and when they can obtain marriage licenses.

Preparation for the change has begun.

Forms will be replaced, with new documents eliminating language such as “bride” and “groom.”

Computer programs used to record marriages also will be altered, and the vendor that created the software is working on changes for that, Rosand said.

Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge said her office hasn't received any calls requesting information about same-sex marriage licenses, and she does not expect an influx of inquiries.

“We only grant about 211 marriage licenses a year, so we don't have lot of traffic,” she said, “but we are stocking up on extra packets.”

Among those she may hear from are Jim Larson and Brandon Ellard, co-owners of the Water Street Creperie in Port Townsend.

The two plan to get married but haven't set a date.

“Now that it's all settled, it's resolved. Before, it was up in the air,” Larson said.

“Even if we had everything but marriage,” through domestic partnership registration, “it wouldn't really be marriage to us.

“Now, the pressure's on [to get married].”

Mena Quilici, 66, and Cheron Dudley, 63, who live in Kala Point, will consider what legal changes are needed before deciding if they will wed, Quilici said Saturday.

During the course of their 18-year relationship, they have registered as domestic partners, set up a trust and taken other measures to protect each other, she said.

“There are a lot of things we need to consider” before getting married, she said.

Referendum 74 guarantees that clergy and other officiants will not be forced to perform weddings for same-sex couples.

The Clallam County Auditor's Office offers a list of people in the area who can perform marriages.

That list can note what types of marriages each celebrant can or will perform, she said.

James Jackson, who called himself an “ordained freethinker,” is one on the list who said he already has decided that he will happily perform weddings for same-sex couples.

Jackson said he knows all of the traditional Christian wedding vows and ceremonies, and also can work with more original ceremonies.

“I'm really open to what the marrying couple wants to do,” Jackson said.

Pastor Dave Wiitala of Sequim Bible Church said Thursday that he will not officiate any same-sex weddings, nor does he perform interfaith marriages.

Wiitala, who led the “No on 74” effort in Clallam County, argued that same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue.

“It had nothing to do with rights,” he said.

Marriage, in all religions, is and has been between a man and a woman for thousands of years, Wiitala said.

“I'm not just for Christian marriage,” he said.

“I am in favor of marriage between a man and a woman for everybody,” he said, adding, “I will continue to stand up for what is right and good and true and moral.”

Wiitala said he is proud of Clallam County voters for rejecting the measure.

“Our county did real well,” he said.

________

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.



Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at leah.leach@peninsuladailynews.com.



Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 10. 2012 6:15PM
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