SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Port Townsend church puts out welcome mat for weddings next Sunday

By Leah Leach and Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will put out the welcome mat for gay couples seeking to be married next Sunday.

The church at 2333 San Juan Ave. is offering free wedding ceremonies to gay couples beginning Dec. 9, the first day same-sex weddings can be performed.

“We just decided to offer this so that it would be provided on the [North Olympic] Peninsula,” said Deborah Carroll, congregational administrator.

Individual weddings will be offered free from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. that day “in celebration of Referendum 74 passing,” Carroll said.

“We’re happy that anyone can get legally married in Washington state now,” she added.

Statewide, voters approved R-74, which legalizes same-sex marriages, by 53.7 percent to 46.3 percent in the Nov. 6 general election.

Jefferson County voters approved R-74 63.74 percent to 36.26 percent, while neighboring Clallam County rejected it 52.49 percent to 47.51 percent.

Election results are to be certified Wednesday, and the law will come into effect Thursday.

That will be the first day same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses at county auditor offices.

The first weddings can be conducted next Sunday after a state-mandated three-day waiting period.

The Rev. Bruce Bode and Carol Thomas Cissell, a ministerial intern who is licensed to conduct marriages, will officiate at individual weddings for gay couples in the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship sanctuary.

If couples choose to do so, they can move into the fellowship hall to join an ongoing reception with champagne toasts, wedding cupcakes and the well-wishes of members of the congregation.

Church officials don’t know how many people will be wed.

“Nobody’s asked for this,” Carroll said. “We have no idea how many might show up.”

Bode asked that couples contact the church in advance “so we can have some idea of how many may be interested in doing this.

“We won’t turn anybody away who comes at the time, but it would be helpful to us if they could let us know,” said Bode, who emphasized that this will be only the first day the church will offer free weddings to gay couples.

“We’re available to do them at other times,” he said.

To contact the church, phone 360-379-0609, email or visit

One North Olympic Peninsula couple making plans to marry next Sunday are Judy Persall and Diana Wickman of Sequim.

The two retired Coast Guard officers, who have been together for 10 years, had considered a New Year’s Day wedding but instead “decided to go ahead and do it sooner rather than later,” Wickman said.

The two envision a simple ceremony before a small group of friends and family at their Happy Valley home.

It will be officiated by Chaplain Claire Hatler of Olympic Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, who confirmed Friday that the ceremony will be her first same-sex wedding.

Wickman said neither will wear anything dressy — just something “a cut above our normal Sequim plaid.”

Persall was working on the vows last week.

“It’s going to be so simple,” she said. “I know I will be emotional, so I am keeping it simple.”

In Port Townsend, Loretta Atkins, 65, and Martha Trolan, 62, already are married, but their Canadian marriage certificate had not yet been recognized in Washington.

As of Thursday, it will become legal, but it won’t change their daily lives much, Atkins said.

The biggest problem she said same-sex married couples still face is federal recognition.

“There are more than 1,000 federal benefits offered to married couples, and not all of them can be duplicated by lawyers,” Atkins said.

Among those rights is to only be taxed once for their combined estate.

“If one of us dies, the other has to grieve and hold a fire sale to pay the taxes,” she said.

Both Unitarian Universalists churches on the Peninsula are “welcoming congregations,” a term that specifically means the congregation is committed to supporting people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at

Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at

Last modified: December 01. 2012 9:36PM
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