Gay weddings 17 percent of Washington marriages

7,071 same-sex couples wed in first year since legalization




Local angle

Only the home county of Washington state’s largest and most liberal city has hosted more same-sex weddings than Clark County. According to the state Department of Health, which compiled the information, King County saw 3,452 same-sex marriages between Dec. 6, 2012, and September 2013.

Clark County came in second with 785 same-sex weddings. Third was Pierce County with 486, Snohomish with 330 and Thurston with 300. Garfield County is the only county where no same-sex weddings took place during the first 10 months of the law.

Clark County’s 785 same-sex weddings accounted for 30 percent of all weddings performed here. There were 1,828 opposite-sex weddings, for a county total of 2,613.

Washington’s same-sex marriage law has been a big draw for out-of-staters, according to the Department of Health, which found that both parties were from elsewhere in approximately one-quarter of all Washington same-sex marriages.

That number has surely risen since September; The Columbian’s research, published in late November, found that Oregon’s Oct. 18 legal decision to recognize out-of-state weddings has resulted in a big wave of Oregonians stepping across the border to Clark County to get married. Their frequent destination is the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Hazel Dell, which has promoted itself as a welcoming wedding site for same-sex couples.

SEATTLE — Gay weddings made up 17 percent of marriages in Washington this past year, the first year gay marriages were legal in the state, state officials reported Wednesday.

About 7,071 same-sex couples got married in Washington between December 6, 2012, and the most recent complete month of data, September 2013. There were 42,408 total marriages in the state during that time, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

So far, most of Washington state's same-sex marriages, 62 percent, were between two women.

Washington is one of 15 states plus the District of Columbia where gay marriage is legal, but few have the kind of detailed data Washington released this week, in part because gay marriage is so new in most places.

According to the 2010 Census, there were about 152,335 same-sex married couples and 440,989 same-sex unmarried couples in the United States.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, during the first year and a half after gay marriage became legal, 8,181 same-sex couples got married. Between May 2004 and the end of 2012, 22,406 gay couples got married in Massachusetts.

Both Washington and Massachusetts warn that these numbers are close estimates, but not perfectly accurate, since gender information was not properly entered on every marriage certificate.

In California, the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute estimated 18,000 gay couples married in 2008 when same-sex marriage was legal for 41/2 months. Those numbers are not based on marriage license information because California, like many states, does not request gender information on license applications.

One of the main sponsors of the Washington state law that led to gay marriage said the wedding numbers were higher than he expected.

During the five years before Washington's gay marriage law, when the state had what was affectionately called "everything but marriage," only 9,500 couples registered themselves as domestic partners, including about 950 who were not gay, said state Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.

"In terms of the uptake in marriages, that's a remarkable number," he said.

All but one of Washington's 39 counties -- Garfield County -- reported same-sex marriages during the first 10 months of the law. The top five counties were King, Clark, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston counties.