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Continued: Washington state's gay marriage journey offers lessons for Minnesota

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 13, 2013 - 10:11 PM

At the Yakima Mall, retail store manager and born-again Christian Mike Broom is still trying to make sense of it all. The Bible is clear that same-sex marriage is wrong, he said.

Then he paused. “But the Bible is pretty clearly against a lot of other sins, too,” he said after a moment, noting that the rise of gangs and drugs in his city have caused violence and sins far worse than that of gay marriage.

“I have gay and lesbian friends and I will give them my opinion,” Broom said. But, he added, “I love them just the same.”

Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, the lead group that pushed for legalization of same-sex marriage, said that as skeptics see how “remarkably normal” married gay and lesbian couples are, in time acceptance will come.

“People are still truly conflicted about this,” Silk said. “But I think there’s a recognition that there is a new space to have the conversation about LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues writ large, and I really think we forged a space for new conversations on this.”

In the meantime, changes are rippling across the state. The local wedding industry is retooling itself to cater to a new market, particularly high-earning, same-sex couples prepared to drop $60,000 or more on their dream ceremony.

Traditions are getting tweaked, too.

“My couples who are same-sex are really history makers,” said Kristen Tsiatsios, owner of Jubilee Event Engineers in the Seattle area. “They are getting to invent the traditions, tweaking them to make them their own.”

The bouquet toss is one example. Historically, single women line up behind the bride hoping to catch the bouquet that signifies who will be the next to marry. At one male-centric wedding, they threw the bouquet toward all their single male friends. At a lesbian wedding, it was tossed to all the singles in the room.

“In the past, they would say, ‘I now pronounce you …’ Now what do you say? Married? Legally wed?” Tsiatsios asked.

It’s not just the ceremony. Already, ads are popping up in local gay and lesbian publications offering estate planning, prenuptial agreements — even help with divorce.

Several gay and lesbian couples say the new law has forced new questions and tensions: Should we get married, just stay coupled or split? Others struggle with the idea of their anniversary date. Some couples loathe the idea of calling themselves newlyweds after 30 and sometimes 40 years together.

“The world is totally different … totally new,” said Fred Swanson, executive director of Gay City Health Project.

‘It’s euphoric’

Colleen Ozolitis and Lee Ann Martinson have been together nine years and married in Canada in 2006. But they wanted to remarry in their home state, with their 5-year-old son and all their family and friends.

“You hear the words, ‘By the power vested in me by the state of Washington,’ ” Ozolitis said. “Well, it’s euphoric, and you realize you did something amazing.”

Sitting in Starbucks, Biesman and Marquardt tried to express what it means for them to be married. But sometimes, when you live something for so long, it can be tough to find the right words.

“When you know something is not allowed, it is easy to convince yourself you don’t want this; I don’t need the word ‘married,’ ” said Marquardt, 29, a medical scheduler. “Once I met Chad, I was like, ‘I do want this, I deserve to have this.’ You want to use the exact same word as everybody else.”

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    Saturday July 13, 2013

    Minnesota is still two weeks away from recognizing same-sex marriage, but campaign leaders, including Richard Carlbom, above, on both sides have returned to their precampaign posts or taken new jobs.

  • Chad Biesman, shown with David Marquardt in their wedding engagement shoot, said that, as his values evolved over the years, the word “marriage” grew more important for him.

  • David Marquardt and Chad Biesman at their wedding.

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