Gays account for one-third of recent marriage licenses |

Gays account for one-third of recent marriage licenses

A month after same-sex marriage became legal in California, more than one-third of marriage licenses issued in western Nevada County went to gay couples.

More than half of those were issued June 17 and in the days shortly after, when a state Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage went into effect. Since then, the number of licenses issued to same-sex couples has leveled off, according to statistics provided Friday by county Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz.

Another surge among gay couples seeking to marry is expected near the November election, when California voters will decide whether to change the state Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Nevada County’s Clerk-Recorder’s Office at the Eric W. Rood Administrative Center in Nevada City has issued 41 marriage licenses to same-sex couples among the 116 licenses handed out in the 31 days since June 17.

Of those, 23 licenses were issued to gay couples in the first four days they could legally marry.

Eight more same-sex couples received licenses at a satellite office in Truckee that opens on Thursdays, Diaz said.

Placer County, which includes the Lake Tahoe’s north shore, has issued between 40 and 50 marriage licenses to gay couples, according to Anita Walker of the Clerk-Recorder’s Office in Auburn.

Of all the couples getting hitched in the western end of the county, 28 had their ceremonies performed by the Clerk-Recorder’s Office, including 16 gay couples.

Jerry Farwell, a minister at Unity in the Gold Country church in Grass Valley, has officiated at four same-sex weddings in the county, including two at the recorder’s office, one in Nevada City and one on the San Juan Ridge, Farwell said.

“I’ve heard of couples I’ve known getting married at different places,” he added.

The Harmony Ridge Lodge in Nevada City, which hosts weddings and touts itself as gay-friendly, has yet to schedule its first same-sex wedding, but has fielded a number of inquiries, co-owner Jamie O’Donnell said.

“There are people out there who are making plans,” O’Donnell said, adding that a half-dozen gay couples recently toured his property.

Julitte Howell, who co-owns the Dream Maker wedding chapel on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, said the business is getting three to four calls a day from gay couples and has performed eight same-sex weddings.

“It’s really interesting,” Howell said. “All of a sudden, it’s the rage. It’s been quite a phenomenon for us.”

Although the number of gay couples getting marriage licenses at the Rood Center has leveled off since the first week, when 23 were issued to them, Farwell and others expect the pace will pick up before Californians vote on a ballot initiative that calls for a ban on gay marriage.

“There was this surge right away, and I expect we’ll see another one close to the election,” Farwell said.

John Paul, a Nevada City Downtown Business Association board member, said he expects to see an increase in out-of-state couples coming here after a wedding ad promoting Nevada City appears next month in The Advocate, a gay news magazine with a nationwide circulation of 175,000.

“Anybody from any state can come here and get married,” he said. “So, we’re going to have a delay factor until this fall.”

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail or call 477-4239.

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