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Washington voters say ‘I do’ to same-sex marriage

In the Nov. 6 general election, Washington state voters passed Referendum 74, which legally recognizes same-sex marriages.

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gaycouples5SEATTLE — Same-sex marriage in Washington state became legal at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, and hundreds of same-sex couples lined up at the King County Administration Building in Seattle to apply for marriage licenses.

King County estimated the crowd just before midnight at more than 206 couples.

“To have this day and to really have the recognition of our state and our fellow citizens, it really means the world to us,” said Dawn Rains, who had arrived with her partner, Heather Laird.

“It’s a big deal. I’m really excited.  It’s a sign of being equal, being respected and having our love acknowledged,” Laird said.

The first couple chosen to apply for a marriage license just after midnight were Jane Abbott Lighty, 77, and Pete-e Petersen, 85, who have been together for 35 years and live in West Seattle. An interview earlier this week with the couple is below.

Kelly Middleton and Amanda Dollente were among those at the head of the line. “Just like everyone else that we know that are in love, we want to spend our lives together,” Middleton said. “We have two little girls and they are very excited, yes, they feel so special. They say look their mommies are getting married.”

Thurston County, which includes Olympia, the state capital, was issuing 15 licenses to a group picked from a lottery at a 12:01 a.m. Thursday ceremony. The county Auditor’s Office was to reopen at 7 a.m. Thursday for all others.

Washington imposes a three-day waiting period before marriage licenses become valid. That makes Sunday the earliest a wedding can take place.

Seattle City Hall and some religious groups and other organizations plan to hold free same-sex wedding ceremonies on Sunday.

Earlier this year, the Legislature in February passed a measure to legalize same-sex marriage, but opponents got enough signatures to hold a referendum, putting the law on hold.  The legalization of same-sex marriage, Referendum 74, was approved by voters in the Nov. 6 general election.  R-74 passed 53.7% to 46.3%, with only nine of Washington’s 39 counties voting for it, but those counties were in populous Western Washington.

In Olympia, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed on Thursday afternoon official certified the Nov. 6 vote on R-74.

In the 2012 elections, Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first  states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Others legalized it through legislative action or court rulings.

The other states to legalize same-sex marriage are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Maine and Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

gmarriageTACOMA — The Bridge, a United Methodist church in south Tacoma, announced Monday that will be providing a “Free Marriage Day” on Sunday, Dec. 9, the first day marriage is legal for same-sex couples in Washington.

The only thing needed is a partner, a license and a reservation, the church said Monday. The marriages will be performed from noon until 9 p.m. Sunday.

For reservations, call the church at 253-301-7152 or Pastor Gordy Hutchins at 253-250-8759.

To visit the Facebook page of The Bridge, click here.

coupleSEATTLE — On Thursday, counties across the state will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Among the first in line will be two women in Seattle who have been together for 35 years.

“I`m just thrilled to death,” Pete-e Petersen said Monday as she sat next to her longtime partner, Jane Abbott Lighty. “I think, is it really happening?  I wanted to marry her for a long time.”

As the day approaches, Petersen and Lighty are fighting back tears just thinking about it.

“It’s so unbelievable. Careful what you ask, because we`re so close,” Lightly said as she started to choke up with emotion.

“Don`t,” Petersen said to her.

“I won`t.  It`s a watershed moment.  It’s pure joy,” Lightly added.

The two will be heading to the King County Courthouse at midnight Wednesday to be among the first in line to apply for a marriage license at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

“People are very excited and they should not be denied the right to have that license for even one moment longer,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said.

Constantine plans to be there Wednesday night to issue licenses after the tick of midnight.

“I`m excited to sign the first licenses with the pen that the governor used to sign the marriage equality legislation earlier this year,” Constantine said. “And I will stay and greet the happy couples as long as they continue to show up” in the early morning hours of Dec. 6.

Petersen and Lighty will be married Sunday on the stage at Benaroya Hall, during a performance of the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Chorus, where they have been members for years.

The two had their first blind date 35 years ago.

“She was so interested, she wanted to hear what I had to say,” Lighty said. “And I picked that up right way.”

How quickly had she fallen in love?

“I did that day,” Petersen said. “I did that minute.

“She`s just part of my life,” Petersen said of Lighty. “I mean, I can`t think of a day without, you know,” she added, choking up with emotion. “It’s hard.”

“She`s my life,” Lighty said.

licensesOLYMPIA — To mark the same-sex marriage law taking effect, the Thurston County Auditor’s Office will hold a random drawing to pick the names of the first 10 couples to be issued marriage license applications just after midnight on Thursday, Dec. 6.

Couples interested in submitting their names for the lottery should contact Heather Hirotaka at hirotah@co.thurston.wa.us or at (360) 754-4661 to submit their names and a contact phone number by noon on Monday.  The drawing will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday, and the selected couples will be contacted by staff.  For more information, visit www.ThurstonAuditor.org.

In King County, the Recorder’s Office will be open at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6, to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“As King County executive, I plan to be there at midnight to congratulate the happy couples and sign commemorative items with the governor’s pen — the same pen she used to sign the marriage equality bill earlier this year,” said Executive Dow Constantine.

Constantine will sign the first marriage licenses for a group of same-sex couples recommended by community leaders. Once the ceremony is complete, marriage licenses for all couples in line will be issued from a temporary annex that will be established down the hall from the Recorder’s Office, enabling the main office to continue serving customers with other business.

Before arriving at the Recorder’s Office, couples should download and complete a marriage license application from www.kingcounty.gov/marriage, and bring the completed form with them along with photo identification and the license fee of $64, payable by cash or check only.

sanctuarySEATTLE — The Universal Life Church is giving 20 gay and straight couples free weddings in December.

The event is called “December to Remember” and is being held to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington. It will be held at The Sanctuary at Admiral in West Seattle on Dec. 15, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Ceremonies will include flowers, food, cake, photographers, and music at no charge to the couples.

The ULC Monastery says it believes in marriage equality and ministers are encouraged to officiate same-sex weddings in the nine states where same sex marriage has been legalized.

The Universal Life Church Monastery is a non-denominational church headquartered in Seattle.

Tuesday is the first day that gay couples can register to have their matrimonial ceremonies performed at city hall, beginning Dec. 9. Aaron Pickus with the mayor’s office said that more than 55 requests had been made by noon.

Anticipating demand from couples who want to tie the knot, city hall will be open on Dec. 9 from Noon- 5 p.m. Eight local judges are volunteering to perform the ceremonies and two local stage designers are creating chapels.

Couples need to register to ensure they reserve a spot — more information is available here.

Washington voters passed R-74 in the November general election; state law calls for 30 days after the vote to enact the referendum. Gov. Chris Gregoire had previously singed a bill approving same-sex marriage in February.

Photo courtesy Mother Jones

A Port Angeles mother has undertaken a drive to prevent politicking in the classroom after her eighth-grade daughter told her of an anti-Ref. 74 button one of her teachers wore in the classroom, the Peninsula Daily News reported.

As part of her efforts, the lesbian mother has started an online petition to gather enough signatures to prohibit teachers from bringing their political views into the classroom. The Daily News reported that Superintendent Jane Pryne said that district does have a policy in place in regard to politics in the classroom.

The parent behind the petition, Cynthia Deford, identified the teacher in question as a male mathematics teacher, but the school would not specifically name the teacher.

The petition was launched on Nov. 10, the paper reported.

Ref. 74, which allows for same sex marriage in Washington state, was approved by voters 53 percent to 47 percent statewide in the Nov. 6 general election. The law will go into effect on Dec. 6.

Voters in Washington have approved same-sex marriage, making it the third state in the nation to legalize gay marriage in Tuesday’s general elections. Voters in Maine and Maryland also approved it.

With nearly 2.5 million votes counted in Washington state as of 10:29 p.m. Thursday, the same-sex measure was winning approval by more than 123,000 votes, ensuring its passage. The vote was 1,269,917 yes votes and 1,146,439 no votes.

Hours earlier Thusday, the head of the opposition group Preserve Marriage Washington conceded defeat, saying that it was clear Referendum 74, the same-sex measure, would be approved.

In a statement, group chairman Joseph Backholm said, “With added results showing that we have not closed the gap, it now appears clear that Referendum 74 will be narrowly approved. We are disappointed in losing a tough election battle on marriage by a narrow margin. But while we are disappointed, we are not defeated.”

Backholm said the state’s “deep blue” leanings, its largely secular populace and the Seattle Times “taking the unprecendented step of not just endorsing the referendum, but of actively campaign for its approval,” all contributed to making his organization’s campaign more difficult.

Referendum 74 supporters declared victory Wednesday and planned to gather at the Washington United for Marriage headquarters on Capitol Hill to celebrate the news.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said, “Washington has made history and I couldn’t be prouder. Voters stood up for what is right and what is just and said that all Washington families are equal under the law. I am proud that our LGBT families will no longer be treated as separate but equal, they will be equal.

“This is a day that historians will look back on as a turning point for equality. It is a day I will look back on as Washington state leading the nation. And it is a day that I will carry with me forever.”

Washington state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, a champion of gay marriage legislation, said, “For me personally, and for my partner of 21 years, Michael, this is a deeply emotional moment.  Like thousands of couples across this state, we now have the freedom to marry.”

Washington United for Marriage campaign manager Zach Silk issued the following statement Thursday: “This is an historic day for Washington, an historic day for our country and, most of all, for families across the state who have dreamed of this day.

“We have always understood that there are good people on the other side of this issue.  Yet, we remain confident that once people see how much marriage matters to families, they will realize that the love and commitment that marriage embodies only strengthens families, neighborhoods and communities.”

Same-sex couples will be allowed to apply for marriage licenses on Dec. 6 — 30 days after the election and the day elections results must be certified under state law. The law requires all couples to wait three days after receiving their marriage license before they have a ceremony. Couples can obtain marriage licenses from any county — it does not need to be from the county where they reside.

Same-sex marriage measures were also on the ballot Tuesday in three other states — Maine, Maryland and Minnesota. Maine and Maryland voted to legalize same-sex marriage Tuesday night. Minnesota rejected a proposal to amend the state’s constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Due to court rulings and legislative victories, same-sex marriage was legal in six states and the District of Columbia. With Tuesday’s elections, it is now legal in nine states and D.C.

The Washington Legislature in February approved a measure allowing same-sex marriage and it was signed into law by Gregoire. However, it was put on hold when Referendum 74 was put on the ballot to either reaffirm the decision or overturn it.

Roman Catholic leaders in the state urged a “no” vote on R-74 by their parishioners, but major corporations in the Seattle area, including Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks and Nordstrom, supported the measure.

Two years ago, the Legislature approved the state’s so-called “Everything but Marriage” law that gave domestic partners many of the same civil rights as married couples.

Opponents of Referendum 74 say that should be enough. Pastor Joseph Fuiten of Cedar Park Church in Bothell argues that when voters are told “that gays have every right of marriage right now, and that we don’t need to change marriage in order for gays to be treated fairly, when you phrase it in that way, support for gay marriage drops to 35%.”

It was much the same situation in Washington as in Maryland, where the same-sex marriage law was narrowly approved by both chambers of the Legislature and signed in March by the state’s Democratic governor, Martin O’Malley. But the law was put off when opponents gathered sufficient signatures to toss the issue to a voter referendum.

The issue in Minnesota was whether to reaffirm the state’s existing ban on same-sex marriage through an amendment in the State Constitution. Polls showed a tight contest there.

With same-sex marriage expected to pass in Washington, county officials are gearing up for a rush of people seeking to get married.

On Dec. 6, when the election results are officially certified by the state, same-sex couples hope to be able to walk into county records buildings and pick up their marriage license – and both King and Pierce counties are gearing up for an onslaught of couples doing just that.

With Referendum 74 poised to pass in Washington, some same-sex couples are ready to race to the courthouse or wedding chapel.

“We expect large numbers of applicants for marriage licenses in those first few days, so our King County Recorder’s Office will be open for extended hours for the issuance of marriage licenses on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 6 and 7, and even on Saturday, Dec. 8,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said Wednesday.

Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said, “If referendum 74 passes, we’ll be ready to go December 6th.”

And that means lots more paperwork for Washington’s licensing staff. Pierce County generally gives out about 6,000 marriage licenses; Anderson expects that number to double.

She said the reason, in part, is “pent-up demand; people from other states will come to that jurisdiction to get married, some people in the county have wanted to be married for a long time, or in a domestic partnership who want to be married.”

It may be new to same-sex couples, but the licensing process isn’t changing. New couples will fill out an application, pay a $64 fee — wait three days to perform the ceremony – then look for the state marriage certificate in the mail.

Existing domestic partnerships that are already officially registered with the state will automatically convert into marriages on June 30, 2014, unless the couple doesn’t want to wait – in which case – they, too, can get in line for a marriage license, and the partnership will dissolve.

Like King County, Pierce County plans to have extended hours on Thursday, Dec. 6, and through the weekend. Both counties also altering application forms to get rid of gender-specific language.

“I guarantee you that every customer that comes to Pierce County to apply for a marriage license, regardless of their sex or status, is going to get a cheerful, welcoming response, and they’re going to feel very comfortable,” Anderson said.

County officials are also expecting crowds protesting same-sex marriage when it takes effect on Dec. 6, so they’re beefing up security and creating a free-speech zone for those who aren’t celebrating.

It may be new to same-sex couples, but the licensing process isn’t changing. New couples will fill out an application, pay a $64 fee — wait three days to perform the ceremony – then look for the state marriage certificate in the mail.

Existing domestic partnerships that are already officially registered with the state will automatically convert into marriages on June 30, 2014, unless the couple doesn’t want to wait – in which case – they, too, can get in line for a marriage license, and the partnership will dissolve.

Like King County, Pierce County plans to have extended hours on Thursday, Dec. 6, and through the weekend. Both counties also altering application forms to get rid of gender-specific language.

“I guarantee you that every customer that comes to Pierce County to apply for a marriage license, regardless of their sex or status, is going to get a cheerful, welcoming response, and they’re going to feel very comfortable,” Anderson said.

County officials are also expecting crowds protesting same-sex marriage when it takes effect on Dec. 6, so they’re beefing up security and creating a free-speech zone for those who aren’t celebrating.

Here are links to the King, Pierce and Snohomish marriage licensing offices:

http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/pc/abtus/ourorg/aud/marriage.htm

http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/marriage.aspx

http://www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/departments/auditor/divisions/recording/marriage/

–Kate Burgess, Q13 FOX News reporter

 

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