SEATTLE — Hundreds of King County residents made history early Thursday by getting some of Washington state’s first-ever marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
Lined around the county’s downtown Seattle administration building, snaked through a winding queue and, finally, crammed into a processing room, the couples cried, shared love stories and passed around flowers.
Just after midnight, they rejoiced.
“I am so glad this night has finally arrived," County Executive Dow Constantine said of Washington’s official recognition of same-sex marriages. “This has been a long struggle nationally and in our state."
Constantine, a longtime gay-marriage supporter, signed the first license at 12:01 a.m., when the voter-approved Referendum 74 formally took effect around the state. Recorder’s Office staffers planned to stay open throughout the night and until 6:30 p.m. Thursday to accommodate as many gay and lesbian couples as possible.
More than 200 couples were in line to get licenses at midnight.
The first to actually receive them was a group of community leaders, including the acknowledged matriarchs of the movement in the state, West Seattle residents Pete-e Petersen and Jane Abbott Lighty.
“It’s very humbling to be chosen first. We feel like we’re representing a lot of people in the state who have wanted this for a long time," said Petersen, 85, who has been with Lighty for 35 years. “It’s hard to explain the thrill that we are really going to get married."
Washington is now one of seven states that allow same-sex marriage. The District of Columbia does, too, and Maine and Maryland will soon, after also approving it last month.
Same-sex couples here can’t legally exchange vows until Sunday, because state law mandates a three-day waiting period after a marriage license is issued.
But many of those who got the state’s first same-sex licenses Thursday said the wait will seem like nothing compared with the wait they have already endured.