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Following Marriage Equality Win, Washington Weds

by Shaun Knittel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Dec 10, 2012

On December 6, King County Executive Dow Constantine signed the first same-sex marriage license in Washington State for Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen at the King County Recorder's Office in Seattle, Washington. The office opened at 12:01 a.m. to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the first time after Washington voters chose to legalize same-sex marriage in November's election.

Governor Chris Gregoire (D-WA) and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified Referendum 74 on Wednesday, surrounded by the marriage equality bill's supporters. The law doesn't require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages, and it doesn't subject churches to penalties if they don't marry gay or lesbian couples.

"This is a very important and historic day in the great state of Washington. For many years now, we've said, 'One more step. One more step.' This is our last step," Gregoire said. "To the couples that are here today that will finally be treated with the equality they've deserved for many years, congratulations to each of you."

Washington becomes the only state west of the Mississippi River offering licenses to gay and lesbian couples -- and the first state to begin same-sex marriages as the result of a statewide vote.

Two by two, dozens of gay and lesbian couples attained their marriage licenses. King County, the state's biggest county, opened the doors to its auditor's office shortly after midnight.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said, "People who have been waiting all these years to have their rights recognized should not have to wait one minute longer."

In Seattle, the mood was festive.

Volunteers distributed everything from roses and coffee to fruit. Champagne was poured. Different groups of men and women serenaded the waiting line, one to the tune of "Going to the Chapel."

"We waited a long time. We’ve been together 35 years, never thinking we’d get a legal marriage. Now I feel so joyous I can’t hardly stand it," said 85-year-old Pete-e Petersen, who with her partner, 77-year-old Jane Abbott Lighty, were the first to get a license.

In 2007 Teresa Guajardo and Tina Roose became state registered domestic partners. Now they are really going to get married, legally married, they told EDGE.

"Never in my lifetime," Roose told EDGE, "did I think I’d ever be able to marry the woman I love."

Tina’s brother Paul, a musician, even wrote them a song titled "Never in My Lifetime."

The two women will finally tie the knot on December 15 in the Washington State Capitol Rotunda in Olympia. To share their joy and celebration in an inclusive and accessible way, they have invited other couples to join them. So far, more than 20 couples from at least five counties plan to marry with them, mostly in separate ceremonies. A few couples will share a marriage ceremony with other joyful couples. In addition, hundreds of community members will attend to witness and celebrate this historic event.

According to the Associated Press, "Hundreds of people," (many of whom had waited all night and had lined up hours earlier" snaking around the downtown Seattle building on a chilly December night.

"We knew it was going to happen, but it’s still surreal," said Amanda Dollente, who along with her partner, Kelly Middleton, began standing in line at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Among those getting marriage licenses was Dan Savage, who said, "It’s been a long fight but it ain’t over. We still have to fight (the Defense of Marriage Act) and there’s 41 other states were same-sex couples aren’t allowed to marry."

Savage plans to marry his partner on Sunday in a ceremony at City Hall.

There are nearly 10,000 domestic partnership registrations with the secretary of state’s office. Most same-sex domestic partnerships that aren’t ended prior to June 30, 2014, automatically become marriages, unless one of the partners is 62 or older.

Washington has a three-day waiting period, so the first same-sex marriages weren’t performed in the state until Sunday, December 9. Several members of the clergy volunteered to perform marriages at three locations. They are also planning to perform weddings later in the week, particularly on Wednesday, which carries the notable date of 12-12-12.

Washington will be the seventh state to recognize same-sex marriages. Maine will follow on December 29 and Maryland on January 1, as the result of votes in those states on similar ballot measures. The other six states (by order of adoption) are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. Washington, D.C. also allows gays and lesbians to marry.

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.


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