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21 same-sex couples take out marriage licenses in Jackson County

A few weeks after celebrating in the Ashland Plaza over a federal court ruling that struck down Oregon's voter-approved ban on gay marriage, partners Kathy Bauer and Jolie Johnson say it's the simple realities of married life they cherish the most.

Things like knowing that if one ends up in the hospital, the other can talk to the physician. Or officially being family to their in-laws. Or even receiving federal tax breaks.

"We always said, and gay people often say this, that marriage is just a piece of paper," Johnson said.

"When you don't think it's something you can ever have, you just don't go there," Bauer added.

But since their Maui wedding last February, the couple, who have been together for 10 years, say they've been surprised at the extra level of comfort and security marriage provides.

"It's almost like an umbrella in the rain," Johnson said.

While last October Oregon began honoring the marriages of same-sex couples who legally married out of state, Bauer said it "is a huge victory" for same-sex couples in Oregon to be able to experience marriage without leaving their home state.

Bauer and Johnson, who are celebrating their marriage with a reception at Grizzly Peak Winery later this month, represent part of a boom in receptions and weddings among same-sex couples in Jackson County since the May 19 ruling.

Twenty-one same-sex Jackson County couples have taken out marriage licenses, according to Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker, representing 12 percent of the total 169 licenses issued by the county between May 19 and June 12.

Gina DuQuenne and her partner, Josh Willow, are among the 21 couples. They will wed this October during National Pride Month after 15 years together.

"I'm already a mom and a grandma, and now I can finally, legally, be a wife," DuQuenne said.

DuQuenne, president of Southern Oregon Pride, said it took days for the ruling to sink in.

"At first, when we got the ruling, everyone was shocked," she said. "Now it's just really exciting to think about. We don't have to go to California or Washington. We can get married right here, where we live, with our friends and families and community."

— Kelsey Thomas