But as 100 friends and relatives gathered to celebrate their marriage in Northeast Portland, it was sublime: In addition to the chocolate and vanilla cupcakes topped with “Mrs. and Mrs.” and the lights twinkling from the ceiling as they signed domestic-partnership papers, both women—each in a white strapless wedding gown—shared a first dance with their fathers.
The plan was to end the night dancing at Old Town’s CC Slaughters, a gay bar where “we always felt welcome,” Eidan Bray says.
Shuttle vans carried guests from the reception to CC Slaughters at 219 NW Davis St.
It was there, the pair says, the club’s bouncer stopped them dead at the door, saying they couldn’t come inside wearing their white gowns.
“We thought he was kidding, so we started laughing,” Michelle Bray says.
The newlyweds say they soon learned it was not a joke: They were barred from a gay bar on the night of their same-sex wedding. And, what’s worse, they say, club owners haven’t done anything to address what the couple is calling discrimination against lesbians.
Their wedding gowns—Michelle’s made of intricate lace, Eidan’s featuring beautiful draping—technically violated the club’s policy of no bachelorette attire, including dresses, feather boas, tiaras and sashes.
It’s a battle being writ large in gay bars all over the city: Regulars cringe at the hordes of straight women who arrive drunk, in costume and often screaming. And owners say bachelorettes flaunting impending nuptials—in front of a population that cannot legally marry—is also insensitive at best.
The Silverado nightclub, which features male exotic dancers, banned bachelorette parties until last year. CC Slaughters allows bachelorette parties, but has a dress code barring their typical attire (“Screaming Ban Shes,” WW, June 20, 2012).
“The bouncer said we would offend the clientele because marriage is not legal in Oregon,” Michelle says. “I understand that straight women might offend. But we are gay and we just got married.”
The pair says they spent at least five minutes after they arrived around 10:30 pm trying to reason with staff to be flexible about CC Slaughters’ policy. As they tried to get in, gay men outside the club were cheering on their wedding and asking to snap photos with them in their gowns.
Despite their pleas, they weren’t allowed in.
“It seems like discrimination against lesbians but not gay men,” Michelle says. “If we were married in suits—if we were kind of butch—they would have let us in.”
WW’s phone calls and emails to the club and its owners, John Houston and Bruce Rice, were not returned.
Mutual friends introduced Eidan Webster, 28, a mechanical engineer, to Michelle Hodge, 27, a media researcher, two years ago.
After signing domestic-partnership documents, they each took the last name Bray, Eidan’s middle name. Because they aren’t legally married yet, they plan to visit Michelle Bray’s home state of Connecticut this winter to do so.
Turned away from CC Slaughters, the Brays wound up at the nearby Dixie Tavern, a straight club. They say they were announced on the club’s sound system, and even invited to dance on the bar. But they lost members of the wedding party along the way.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Eidan Bray says. “We wound up at a straight club and we were embraced, and at a gay bar we were rejected.”
The next day, Eidan Bray wrote an email to CC Slaughters’ owners, Houston and Rice.
She says it wasn’t until then, as she described their treatment, that she cried.
An email came back from Houston the same day.
“I’m so sorry that this happened to the both of you on your special day,” he wrote. “I wish I could give you some reason that this happened but I have nothing. This is not how Bruce and I run our business.”
The Brays say an apology isn’t enough.
“We expected some kind of explanation or a change in the policy,” Eidan Bray says. “We just don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”