The passage of R-74, Washington state’s Equal Marriage Act, marks an important change for same-sex couples throughout the state, including several on the Key Peninsula.
For Holly and Denise Hendrick, it means that their domestic partnership can now evolve into a legal marriage.
“Holly and I had a big wedding celebration and party with our family and friends back in 2007. Then in 2011, we got domestic partnered,” said Denise Hendrick, who had her last name legally changed to Hendrick several years ago.
Next July, the couple plans to take advantage of their new “equal status” and will be legally married, probably in a “nice site in Tacoma,” she said. “The date will be on our 15th anniversary together. After being together for 15 years, we’ll finally have the protections and security that marriage brings,” Hendrick added.
“We talked about going to California or Canada, but we wanted to be married in our own state. We were pretty sure that some day that would be able to happen,” she said.
The legal ceremony will be a fairly low key event she said. “We feel like we had our big marriage celebration back in 2007, but we still have lots of people who are very excited and want to celebrate with us and support us,” Hendrick said.
Like other couples, Holly and Denise want “all the legal protections we can get. We want to feel secure.”
That means things like being able to put a spouse on a health insurance policy or to buy property together as a married couple.
But, until the federal government makes same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States, there will still be uncertainties about things like Social Security benefits for surviving spouses and other questions.
“I’m really proud of our state for passing R-74,” Hendrick said. “And I think the federal government will also recognize same sex marriages in my lifetime.”
Michael Ouellette and Mike Peterson have been partners for 14 years. In 2009, they sold a business in Renton and purchased the Frog Creek Lodge in Lakebay.
In the three years since they arrived, they’ve completely remodeled the lodge, inside and out. They’ve added a hiking trail around the perimeter of the 10-acre property and “totally re-built the labyrinth,” Ouellette said.
The lodge has been the site of “lots of weddings,” he added. Eventually, it will also be the place where he and Peterson officially tie the knot.
“Right now, though, we’re concentrating on the wedding we’re hosting for my youngest brother. He and his partner will be married here at Frog Creek next year. Once his wedding is finished, then we’ll probably start thinking about our own.”
Ouellette is certain that, with the passage of R-74, many more same-sex couples will choose to be married at Frog Creek.
“We welcome everyone,” he said. “And the word will spread about that fact.”
Ouellette was very active in the R-74 campaign. “Mike and I both feel it’s very important that we have equal marriage here in Washington state. No one should dictate who someone can be married to. We just wanted to fight for our rights,” Ouellette said.
“When the church got involved, that was what really motivated me. I knew that I had to do everything I could to help get R-74 passed. I might not have been as involved in the campaign to get it passed if it hadn’t been for the Catholic Church making such a stand against it,” Ouellette said. “If it hadn’t passed, and I hadn’t stood up for what I know is right, I would not have been able to forgive myself.”
The past 14 years, and especially the past three years that Ouellette and Peterson have owned Frog Creek, have been “a labor of love and an awesome journey.”
And both couples believe that the best is yet to come.