Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Issued In Lane County

May 19, 2014

Same-sex couples in Lane County took advantage of a federal ruling Monday legalizing gay marriage in the state.

KLCC’s Jes Burns reports from the county building in downtown Eugene, where Dozens of same-sex couples lined up to apply for marriage licenses.  

Eric Gates and Jose Soto lean in for a kiss during their marriage ceremony outside the Lane County Building in Eugene.
Credit Jes Burns

Supporters handed out bouquets of flowers to the excited couples, many of whom left work early to go to the County Clerk’s Office.

“It’s lunch hour.”

Pam Irwin and Barb Bellows have been together for 11 years. Bellows was anxiously watching for the ruling.

Bellows: “I’d been sitting on the internet, refreshing, waiting for the judgment to come down from the judge.  It was what?  12:03, 12:04?  She sent out an email saying ‘I do.’”  

Irwin and Bellows said they planned to get married later in the afternoon at a downtown Eugene restaurant, where gay rights advocates, couples and their families celebrated.

But many couples didn’t want to wait.  They were greeted in the adjacent Wayne Morse Plaza by Lane County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Carlson.

Carlson:  “And it is my personal privilege and great joy to be the first one to introduce Eric and Jose as the newly married couple.  Partners in life, for life.”

Jose Soto and Eric Gates worked together on the unsuccessful campaign to defeat Measure 36, which in 2004 changed the Oregon constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.  Monday’s ruling by Judge Michael McShane says the provision is unconstitutional.  The Oregon Family Council, the group behind Measure 36, and the Oregon Catholic Conference both released statements decrying the change. 

Barb Bellows and Pam Irwin applied for a marriage license in Lane County.
Credit Jes Burns

After they said “I do,” Gates and Soto reflected on the cultural shift that’s happened in the past decade.  

Gates: “I feel like a dam has broke, and things are just changing a lot quicker.  I never thought it would happen in my lifetime.”

Soto: “I felt like conversations then, we were being activists.  And now it’s just something that’s kind of being normalized and accepted by everyone.”

Oregon’s neighbors to the north and south both legalized same sex marriage, and many couples in Oregon had previously traveled out-of-state to get married. But not Soto and Gates.

Soto: “We had actually talked about going to Washington or California and we just decided that we weren’t going to do that until it became legal in Oregon.”

Gates: “We wanted the real thing.”