A Wedding Story

Falls City couple worries about the law but not their love



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Laura Britton and Lori Sickles of Falls City held a wedding ceremony in Dallas City Park March 12 after getting their marriage license three days earlier in Multnomah County.

DALLAS -- Laura Britton and Lori Sickles love each other.

They know it. They know it with the kind of absolute certainty that only comes from being in love.

Public officials argue about the legality of same-sex marriage. Their arguments spill out into the streets -- into churches, coffeehouses and op-ed pages.

Amidst all harsh words and bitter debates, Britton and Sickles know one thing for sure. They love each other. They want to get married.

As the sun crept over the Japanese Garden at Dallas City Park March 15, they did just that. They exchanged vows, rings and words of love and commitment.

They got married.

It may not last -- at least in the eyes of the law.

Britton and Sickles got their legal marriage certificate in Multnomah County March 12.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Attorney General Hardy Myers have asked Multnomah County officials to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses until the Oregon Supreme Court has the final word on state law.

Multnomah County Commissioner Diane Linn said the county plans to continue recognizing same-sex marriages. Nonetheless, Britton and Sickles know their marriage stands on shaky legal ground.

It could soon be declared null and void. But they don't mind. They still thought long and hard before making their four-year relationship formal and taking those vows.

"It's a big step," Britton said. "Whether the state honors it or not, we're committed to ourselves."

She wishes people understood that. Yet her wedding was inevitably different. For one thing, few heterosexual weddings generate a press conference five hours later.

For another, the uncertain legal issues left no time for planning. In a perfect world, Britton and Sickles wanted more time to plan their wedding.

"We were robbed of it," Sickles said. "We had no time to even write our vows."

They knew they had to move quickly March 12. Multnomah County authorities promised to issue marriage licenses -- at least until 5 p.m. March 12 -- but state officials threatened to put a stop to it.

Britton and Sickles were the last same-sex couple in line that afternoon. They got their license at 4:44 p.m. Britton was nervous anyway. "I didn't want to go outside with all the cameras," she said.

"Nervous" is an understatement, said Linda Gardner, Britton's former girlfriend. "Laura was ready to throw up she was so nervous."

The paperwork filed, the marriage license signed, Britton and Sickles want one thing more. Married in the eyes of the law, they wanted to be married in the sight of God and their loved ones.

It was not a legal ceremony. That all happened in Portland. Multnomah County recognizes same-sex marriages but not Polk County.

County Commissioner Ron Dodge said county officials here will only accept same-sex marriage when forced to by law. County Clerk Val Unger said no same-sex couples have even tried to get a license in Polk County.

Still, Polk County is Britton and Sickles' home. They wanted to get married here.

They decided to get married at dawn March 15 at the Japanese Garden. They hastily put together a ceremony. "With the legal situation, we felt pressed for time," Britton said.

They also liked the metaphor of holding the ceremony early in the morning. "It's the dawn of a new era and that's why we had it early," Sickles said.

Britton and Sickles started calling guests at 2 a.m. March 13.

Gardner didn't mind. "We would pretty much do anything for these guys. We're all great friends. We'd make awful enemies."

Retired minister Sharon Nesham of the Universal Life Church (and who works with the couple at the casino) performed the ceremony.

"Everyone wanted to sign the certificate," Britton said.

Sativa Jordan, 6, served as the ring bearer. Some 40 people attended the ceremony. "There would have been a whole lot more but it was in the morning," Gardner said.

Onlookers, if they even noticed the ceremony, kept to themselves.

Dallas has a conservative religious reputation but Gardner said it's not difficult having a same-sex relationship in the county. She and Britton rarely faced hostility during their relationship.

"We ran into some problems but we stood our ground and people respected us."

Sickles agrees. "No one has ever said anything negative to us."

Britton and Sickles both work at Spirit Mountain Casino. Their coworkers have been wonderful, Sickles said. Their supervisor gave them five days off for a honeymoon.

"We have five days off and we don't know what to do," said Britton.

However, a new jet ski offers some possibilities.

Gardner finds social attitudes toward same-sex marriage perplexing.

If the state revokes same-sex marriage licenses, she hopes couples get their money back. It doesn't matter what the state does, Sickles said.

She and Britton will marry each other 50 times over if necessary.

Yet they find attitudes -- particularly religious attitudes -- against their marriage troubling.

"If you followed everything in the Bible, you'd practice incest and have slaves on the front porch," said Britton. "Times change."

What bothers them the most, Britton and Sickles said, are people who think the issue is about sex.

"It's not about what happens in the bedroom," Sickles said.

"It's not about how we have sex," Britton said.

"It's about how we love each other."



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