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Washington Tribe Welcomes State’s First Same-Sex Weddings

This weekend, the S’Klallam tribe made the historic Heronswood botanical gardens available free of charge to gay and lesbian couples who wanted to get married on the first day it was legal.
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They’d been together 15 years. Friends had gone out of state to get married, but Bill Trombly, age 59, and Greg Nolan, 64, of Vashon Island, Wash., wanted to get married in their beloved home state. And on Sunday, December 9, the first day same-sex couples could legally marry in Washington state, they were among hundreds who finally made that dream a reality.

With them at the wedding were Trombly’s adult children, Bob and Emily Trombly. “We grew up with both dads,” Emily said. “They were both there for us through every milestone.”

The Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe opened the gardens free of charge to same-sex couples that wanted to get married on Sunday.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all the love,” Trombly senior said. It took the support of straight people to pass the same-sex marriage referendum, he said, because the gay community lacked the numbers to get that done on its own.

The wedding took place at the historic Heronswood botanical garden, in Kingston, Wash. The famous garden was recently acquired at  auction by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, which opened the grounds free of charge to same-sex couples who wanted to get married on Sunday.

“We saw that Seattle was opening the doors to City Hall on Sunday, and we thought, why aren’t we doing that?” said Noel Higa, the tribe’s director of economic development. “We weren’t really ready, and everyone said we were crazy. But we wanted to open our arms to everyone. We wanted everyone to know they’re welcome here.”

Heather Purser photo by Cameron Karsten
Same-Sex Marriage Brings Healing to Me—and My Tribe
Heather Purser set out to win gay marriage rights within the Suquamish Tribe and found herself on a personal journey toward self-acceptance.

The tribe quickly set up two wedding chapels in the small house on the grounds. They provided a makeup artist and photographer, who both offered their services at no cost to the couples, and provided refreshments to wedding parties on their way to their weddings and afterwards. The moist December weather around Puget Sound couldn’t dampen the mood of the couples and the friends and family who accompanied them.

Maria Carlos, 59, and Dusty Vonberg, 65, of Poulsbo, Wash., had already had a wedding ceremony last July after being together for 25 years, but that was under Washington’s civil union law. It makes a difference to them that, this time around, they are married.

“We had taken care of wills, power of attorney, and so forth,” Carlos said. “But there was always a question. This seals it.”

Kathryn Higgins, 58, and JoIda Reed, also 58, were second in line to get their marriage license at Seattle City Hall, getting in line well before midnight on December 5 after waiting 15 years for the chance to get married.

“Being married makes it a sacred commitment,”  Higgins said. “It means we can feel affirmed in our relationship by friends, family, and God. It means we’re committed for life.”


Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Sarah is YES! Magazine's co-founder and executive editor.

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