On the morning Multnomah County joined the national movement to allow same-sex marriages, two "official" weddings took place in a downtown hotel suite filled with flowers, friends, gay activists and press.
The first ceremony--between county employee Mary Li and partner Becky Kennedy--was completed at 10:16 am and is widely considered the state's first lesbian wedding, coordinated by Basic Rights Oregon, a gay lobbying group. A photo of the smiling couple, holding Ava Li, their 9-month-old baby, was splashed across the front page of Thursday's Oregonian.
But were they really the first gay couple to marry in the state?
Jamie Bolyard and Abby Haywood think they may have a claim to that title. Jamie and Abby, both 32, staged their own marriage revolution outside county headquarters on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. "We didn't look at the clock," Jamie says. "But it was around 10:15 am."
After waiting in line through the night, the couple--the ink still fresh on their marriage license--got married on the sidewalk, in a ceremony performed by Metropolitan Community Church pastor Glenna Shepherd. Immediately afterwards--no champagne, no cake--the two turned around and filed their newly completed License and Record of Marriage with the county recorder.
A done deal, sealed on site. A marriage ceremony, that is, completed within the first hour after the county started the historic--some are terming it illegal--action of issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Not bad timing for a couple who almost missed their chance at love.
Abby and Jamie met at the Cabaret, one of Nashville's only gay bars, in the spring of 2001. They talked about music, exchanging numbers before the end of the night. Wasting no time, Abby called the next day.
Jamie, an industry veteran, assumed Abby, a musician, wanted to establish a business relationship. In reality, Abby was looking for something more romantic, and by the end of the summer, a relationship had blossomed.
Also that summer, Jamie decided to move to Portland. At first, Abby wasn't sure enough of the relationship to commit just yet to a move. But she signed up to help on the drive, and the couple arrived in the Rose City in early September.
Once Abby left for Nashville, it only took a few days for Jamie to come to her senses. Two months later, the couple made another trip, packing up Abby's belongings for another cross-country move.
Both cite Portland's gay-friendly reputation as a significant reason for relocating. Jamie, who came out to her parents when she moved, started work at the Lesbian Community Project. Abby, who has been out to her parents for years, now takes classes at Marylhurst University and teaches piano lessons at the couple's Southeast Portland home.
The couple had talked about marriage but didn't want to travel to San Francisco or Canada. "There's something not right about going to another country to be married," Jamie says. "We needed to be working for what's right where we live."
The day before Valentine's Day, the couple joined a rally for Freedom to Marry Day in the lobby of City Hall. They had no idea that day would come so soon, just three weeks later. "We thought we had a longer fight to fight," Jamie says with a chuckle.
Last Wednesday, their feelings ranged from frustration and anger--"heterosexual couples don't have to wait in the rain," Abby says--to excitement about taking part in a historic moment.
After their quick ceremony, the couple hung out at the Multnomah Building, where they received congratulations and good wishes, spreading through the line of couples wrapped around three-quarters of a city block.
Words of wisdom from Oregon's unofficial first couple after their first few hours of marriage? "It's worth the wait," Jamie proclaims.