By Phaedra Haywood
The New Mexican | Posted: Friday, September 5, 2014 9:30 pm
In the year since the Santa Fe County clerk began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the total number of licenses issued by the office has more than doubled.
And more than half the licenses — 1,388 of 2,524, or about 55 percent — have gone to same-sex couples.
Data provided by the County Clerk’s Office indicate that a great majority of those flocking to Santa Fe to get married are residents of neighboring states who can’t legally marry where they live. More than 400 Texas couples and about 200 couples from Oklahoma have gotten licenses in Santa Fe since Santa Fe County began issuing licenses to same-sex couples on Aug. 23, 2013.
Same-sex couples from Japan, Australia, France and Mexico also have obtained licenses in Santa Fe.
According to The Taos News, the same thing has happened on a smaller scale in Taos County. About 48 percent of the 498 licenses issued in that county since Aug. 28, 2013, have gone to same-sex couples, including 188 issued to couples from out of state: 43 from Texas, 14 from Oklahoma and 94 from Colorado.
Several county clerks around the state were ordered to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last August by separate District Court judges. By that time, the Doña Ana County clerk had already begun issuing licenses on his own initiative. The state Supreme Court then ruled in December 2013 that same-sex marriage was legal statewide.
Wedding planners, caterers, photographers and venue managers say the marriage license law change has resulted in a business boom.
Anne Contreras, owner and director of the popular wedding venue Hacienda Doña Andrea in the village of Cerrillos, says she has always welcomed same-sex couples but has gotten “a lot more inquiries” since last summer.
Contreras said Hacienda has hosted 17 same-sex wedding ceremonies in the past year, which she estimates will increase the number of ceremonies the venue normally hosts from 45 or 50 per year to about 65 or 70 for the year.
Several of the events, Contreras said, were large-scale celebrations costing $40,000 to $60,000 and including 100 or more guests.
Many of these new clients, Contreras said, are from Texas.
“It’s been great for us,” she said. “As long as Texas holds their line, we’ll be getting their business. We are thrilled. It’s so great to be able to welcome these couples and make them feel special.”
Babak Dowlatshahi, owner of Insight Foto in Santa Fe, said the amount of business he’s gotten from same-sex weddings has increased from about four per year to about 30 in the past year.
“Obviously, there is a bottleneck of people that have been waiting,” he said, adding that it’s hard to predict what will happen once the initial flood slows, especially because his experience has been that same-sex couples tend to plan their events a few months ahead of time as opposed to a year or more, which is typical with heterosexual couples.
“I think it will last for a couple of years and then settle down to find a rhythm,” he said.
Angela Reece, an event planner for Walter Burke Catering, said the company has definitely seen an uptick in gay weddings in the past year.
“Personally, I’ve planned at least 10 gay weddings this year, about double last year’s number,” she said.
Reece said the company also has done more to court gay and lesbian couples, printing brochures aimed at them and advertising on websites that serve as resource centers for gay and lesbian couples who want to marry.
Reece said same-sex couples typically spend a little bit more on their celebrations than heterosexual couples.
Hollis Walker, an ordained minister who is herself a lesbian, said about nine of the 15 marriages she officiated in the past year have been for same-sex couples, most of them from — you guessed it — Texas and Oklahoma.
In most of the weddings she’s officiated, Walker said, the couples have “been together a decade or longer.”
“It’s been very sweet,” she said, “because some of the couples start out saying it’s really not a big deal” because they’ve already been together for a long time. “But then when they do it, they cry. Because they had no idea how emotional that ceremony was going to be.
“Weddings are emotional no matter who is getting married,” she said. But when someone’s union is finally being validated by their culture or society, “it has another level of meaning.”
Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.