Hundreds of local same-sex couples received marriage licenses at the King County Administration Building early Thursday amid fanfare that included champagne, a bubble machine, impromptu singing groups, and many, many cheers.
West Seattle residents Jane Abbott Lighty, 77, and Pete-e Petersen, 85, were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license just after midnight Thursday as Washington state’s voter-approved referendum legalizing gay marriage took effect. They were followed closely behind by Neil Hoyt and Donald Glenn Jenny of Bellevue.
Hoyt, 52, and Jenny, 64, have been together for 23 years and plan to marry Sunday at a Seattle Men's Chorus concert.
"It's overwhelming. It really is," Hoyt said a few minutes after the couple received their marriage license in a special ceremony that was led by County Executive Dow Constantine and included dozens of media.
Jenny agreed that the moment felt surreal.
"We never thought it would happen," he said. "It hasn't sunken in yet."
'Why would we wait any longer?'
Hundreds of people began lining up outside the King County Administration Building at around 8 p.m. to receive marriage licenses on Thursday, the day gay marriage officially became legal in the state of Washington. All couples in Washington must wait three days before exchanging vows, making Sunday, Dec. 9, the first day same-sex couples can legally get married.
For Shoreline couple Ruth Barton, 54, and Loretta Graves, 65, the day was a long time coming. Together for 22 years, the women had planned to marry next year on their anniversary of being together.
"And then we thought, 'we've waited 22 years, why would we wait any longer?'" said Barton, who manages the performing arts center at Redmond High School.
Issaquah couple Joey Earls, 27, and Terron Watson, 33, have been in a domestic partnership for five years and said that getting married is the next natural step. They will hold their wedding ceremony next Wednesday on 12-12-12 and are looking forward to celebrating with both their families, who they said have been supportive throughout their relationship.
"At the end of the day, it's just about who you love—nothing else really matters," Earls said.
The moment was especially emotional for Shoreline resident Monica Sicard, a disabled Army veteran. Sicard, 56, met her fiancee, Sandy Tomlin, 55, in a church parking lot and plans to marry her Dec. 15 at the same Seattle church.
Sicard said serving in the military under "don't ask, don't tell" was very difficult—and makes this time all the more significant.
"To have this happen, it's a pretty big deal," she said, wiping away a tear.
The county administration building will remain open until 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and officials said they expect at least a few hundred people to receive licenses today. () About 120 licenses were issued within the first hour.
Voters approved Referendum 74, making gay marriage legal in the state, on Nov. 6 by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. In King County, the measure passed 67 percent to 33 percent.