by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Mike Luyten and Holly Hogan-Long of Elephants Catering & Events with Jeannine Mills, a Gresham resident with Panache Weddings & Events of Gresham.

A coalition of 166 Oregon wedding service providers sent a strong message Tuesday, April 15, that they support same-sex couples’ right to marry and await the day they can provide their products and services to these couples.

“It was an amazing turnout — a room filled with people who are fighting the same uphill battle together,” said Jeannine Mills, a Gresham resident, event planner and designer with Panache Weddings & Events and an organizer with Wedding Professionals United for Marriage. “It’s great to be a part of this historic moment.”

In a pivotal year for same-sex marriage nationally, a federal judge in Eugene will hear final arguments in Rummell and West v. Kitzhaber — a lawsuit filed on behalf of two same-sex couples who wish to marry in Oregon — Wednesday, April 23.

Alleging Oregon’s Measure 36, a constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples, violates the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit falls in sync with the Oregon United for Marriage campaign, which has gathered more than 160,000 signatures and is poised to qualify an initiative for the November 2014 ballot.

Supporters hope the initiative would replace the 2004 same-sex marriage ban, with 55 percent of Oregonians now supporting same-sex couples’ right to marry. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum stated Feb. 20 that her office no longer would defend Measure 36, as her office found it impossible to defend.

Meanwhile, The Oregon Family Council, which was a proponent of Measure 36, is collecting signatures to qualify an initiative that would allow businesses to refuse to provide products and services for same-sex wedding ceremonies. Forty-one percent of the state is opposed to same-sex marriage.

When Sweet Cakes by Melissa refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple last year, the state found significant evidence that the Gresham bakery violated anti-discrimination law.

Under the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative, proposed by the Oregon Family Council, business owners such as Aaron and Melissa Klein would be protected from government penalties or civil actions.

Opponents liken the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative to a recently passed Arizona law that would allow businesses to refuse services to same-sex people and others based on the owners’ religious beliefs. The bill was narrowly vetoed in February by Gov. Jan Brewer.

In the United States, 18 states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage. A pivotal shift came last year when the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act with its Windsor decision.

Since then, every federal judge who has ruled on a marriage case has ruled in favor of the right to same-sex marriage.

A recently released UCLA Williams Institute study shows that extending marriage to same-sex couples in Oregon would generate nearly $50 million in spending to the state economy and 468 new jobs.

The 2010 Census shows that 11,733 same-sex couples live in Oregon, and according to the report, about 5,887 couples would choose to marry in the first three years of same-sex marriage rights.

“My favorite part of a wedding is the few minutes before the couple walks down the aisle,” Mills said. “There are so many emotions, and I’m often fluffing the bride’s train or straightening the groom’s bowtie. It would make me so happy to be able to fluff two trains or straighten two bowties.

“A wedding officiant (at the event) said, ‘Let’s get this done.’ I would echo this.”

What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage, and what formed those thoughts? What do you want to see happen with the April 23 hearing? Reporter Lisa Anderson would love to hear from you at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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