March 03, 2004

(Updated) Late Night At 501 SE Hawthorne

Visiting The First In Line For Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Note: This post has been updated. Any and all updates appear at the end of the original post.


Just back from hitching a ride with a friend of ours to 501 SE Hawthorne, where couples already have begun to line up for tomorrow's start to Multnomah County issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Here's a very brief report.

At this hour, there are only a couple dozen people waiting outside the doors, many in lawn chairs, several seemingly trying to get some sleep.

Several news vans are parked there overnight, including KOIN and KPTV, as well as KCPQ out of Seattle. KATU was there was well, with two vans, prompting my friend to say they were getting married in the morning. Another truck with a dish on its roof was there, but bore no news-related markings. And KNRK was there, asking lesbians in line to let them know if they needed a surrogate (by which we assume they meant sperm doner, but hey it's KNRK, what do they know).

We spoke briefly to Jeff, standing in line with his partner Sean (who turned out to be the owner of No Fish! Go Fish!, I learned later). John and Sean committed to each other thirteen years ago this May, and have been in Portland for seven. While they will receive a marriage license later this morning, they have no specific plans to today. However, said John, "If there's anyone on hand to perform a ceremony, we will do it today."

One supporter came by with flowers for those waiting in line, but wasn't there to get a license himself. "I don't have anybody," he said. "I'm preparing for the future." He also expressed hope that same-sex marriage would help build institutions of inclusion.

Later, three more supporters came by for a hit-and-run cookie delivery.

That's about as far as we got, needing to get back to PORTLAND COMMUNIQUE headquarters to get some sleep, since this morning's schedule is packed, and begins at 9:00 AM for the County's news conference.

March 03, 2004


The latest version of KGW's story has some additional information on a couple of crucial points:

Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn, reportedly directed the county to begin issuing the licenses, after consulting with the county attorney ÔŅĹ but without an official vote from the four other county commissioners.
"She did it without a vote, but she doesn't need it. She has majority support," said Commissioner Serena Cruz. "Our county attorney basically said that it would be illegal not to give out the licenses."

The confusion here is caused by Cruz mentioning that Linn has majority support. The real point is the latter part of her statement, which agrees with our own assertions: What happened here was the County Chair asked the County Attorney to clarifiy the legal status of same-sex marriage under state law, and the County Attorney said same-sex marriage was legal. Thus, no "decision" was made by the Board of Commissioners which would have required Lonnie Roberts' presence.

Meanwhile, on the matter of actual weddings today, KGW reports that "Basic Rights Oregon and the American Civil Liberties Union will host multiple wedding ceremonies throughout the day." Apparently they have one set for 10:00 AM and one for 2:00 PM, at a currently-unannounced location.

Click through for reaction at the Egyptian Club, word from the Attorney General's office that they'd have a statement later today, and reaction from Kevin Mannix (head of the state Republican Party) who calls the move "a travesty" and "idiotic."

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Comments (12)

  1. hot toddy on 03 Mar 2004

    Thank you so much for your reporting. I appreciate this site so much. Hope I can make it to a ceremony!

  2. Bob R. on 03 Mar 2004

    A few notes from the line at 8:15am Wednesday morning...

    When Jason and I got hitched in San Francisco, there were numerous people throughout the day who stopped by the line to spread goodwill, hand out flowers, coffee, T-shirts, and the like.

    When we saw the pictures of people lining up in Multnomah county, we felt we had to do something, but we weren't sure what to do.

    After seeing Jason off to work this morning, the pouring rain inspired me and I took our pooled resources (no pun intended) and purchased a bunch of discount unbrellas, and found my way to the scene.

    It was only two+ weeks ago, and once I arrived at the line, I felt a resurgence of the feelings of joy and history we experienced when we were waiting in SF.

    Oregonians, being a smart lot when it comes to rain, mostly brought appropriate wear and protection, but I had exactly 10 umbrellas, and there were exactly 10 people in the line of 100's who really, really, really needed them. I was so happy to hand them out and to congratulate the smiling, if wet, couples.

    This kind of dedication on the part of those standing in the rain bears witness to the sincerity of this movement. Contrast these couples, waiting all night for the chance to marry, with the 24hr instant wedding chapels in Las Vegas, and tell me were sanctity is found.

    A few funny bits: Some people recognized me from the recent TV interviews and said "Are you Bob or Jason?". One person asked "Has your marriage lasted?" :-)

    Another person, soaked but happy, refused to receive an umbrella. She said, "I'm an Oregonian, I can handle it. Go see if there are any Californians in the line who need one."

    I also bumped into a Just Out reporter who had interviewed us on the phone. Other than speaking briefly with him, I did my best to avoid the cameras, because this day is for the people in line - this is their moment, their turn at making history.

    A word about protesters: I counted exactly 3 very vocal protesters. They were right at the front of the line, but standing in a roped off area in the street (but still very close, and in full view of the crowd, not one of those sequestered so-called "free speech zones".) I recognized at least one of the protesters, who was doing the most shouting, as one of those guys who shows up frequently at the Saturday Market.

    His presence bore witness to the durability and longevity of the human vocal chords. :-)

    - Bob

  3. Bob R. on 03 Mar 2004


    I totally forgot to mention in my previous comments that former police chief and current mayoral candidate Tom Potter was working his way through the line, shaking hands, and offering congratulations to the couples.

    When I saw him, he was unaccompanied, and was not going out of his way to mention his name or campaign, he was just there being supportive.

    Disclaimer: I thought it looked like him, and several others in line, after he passed, went "Hey, was that Tom Potter"? But I'm pretty darned sure. :-)

    - Bob

  4. no one in particular on 03 Mar 2004

    In case you didn't hear, the "undisclosed location" is the Hilton. But if you're planning on going down there to report on any ceremonies, be prepared for some smooth talking about your blog. I went down there and was told that only media and guests were allowed in. (Someone from Basic Rights Oregon at the county office told me that it was open to the public, but I guess they were misinformed.)

    It probably didn't help that I was literally the FIRST person there (aside from four Basic Rights Oregon people who were organizing the event). Walking in looking confused asking "uh, is this where the wedding is going to be?" probably didn't make them any more likely to let me in.

    Did you happen to see Lars at the press conference? He was looking LIVID. He was in the front row, chewing gum, staring intently, looking like his head was going to explode. They took one question from him, but then ignored him for the rest of the conference, even though he was the loudest one there.

    Also, did you notice that as soon as Diane Linn made some offhand comment towards the end about "I'm glad that this practice, which I consider to be somewhat hateful, will ..." the SECOND she said the word "hateful" every pen in the room started scribbling. They were just waiting for it.

    The media is so funny.

  5. Cat on 03 Mar 2004

    Will there be a full transcript of the press conference somewhere? I just watched the first part, but I'm very curious about the rest.

  6. Cat on 03 Mar 2004

    Ah, nevermind--KGW has the whole press conference.

  7. no one in particular on 03 Mar 2004

    The word is out: Kulongoski is opposed. He said it's still up to Hardy Meyers to make a legal determination, though.


  8. hot toddy on 03 Mar 2004

    Just got back from the party at the courthouse. It is an awesome day.

  9. Gary Marschke on 03 Mar 2004

    It was Tom Potter making his way through the line. Having been at several functions where he has appeared, he typically goes about his campaigning in a very low-key fashion frustrating his staff but endearing himself to those of us tired of the rampant political posturing and pandering. REMEMBER HIM AT ELECTION TIME! And congratulations to all the newly joined couples.

  10. Betsy on 03 Mar 2004

    I believe I watched John and Sean (mentioned above) get married on the steps of the county building this morning - theirs was the first wedding Reverend Susan Leo performed.

  11. Marty Beaudet on 26 Apr 2004

    We got a license on 3/3 that expires 5/5. Anyone know how we find someone to perform a non-religious wedding?

  12. The One True b!X on 26 Apr 2004

    As far as I know, check this pdf file or this Word file for officiants.

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