Gay and lesbian couples across Washington woke up to a new reality today: Same-sex marriage is now legal in this state. Hundreds of couples lined up in downtown Seattle Wednesday night to be among the first to receive marriage licenses. The honor of “first couple” went to Jane Abbott Lightly and Pete-e Peterson, ages 77 and 85.
“I never thought this day would come, but here it is," said Peterson. After 35 years together, Lightly and Peterson plan to make it an official marriage this Sunday.
"The public recognition of a personal commitment is really wonderful," Lightly said. "That’s something that gets lost along the way and it's really important. It means a lot."
In King County, Executive Dow Constantine signed licenses for the first group of couples. He made his remarks to the crowd after everyone counted down together to midnight.
“What we’re doing here today is bringing us one step closer to living up to the founding ideals of this country – that all people are created equal and they have the right to the pursuit of happiness,” Constantine said.
This celebration comes after gay marriage opponents challenged the state's marriage equality law with Referendum 74. In November, voters upheld the law by nearly a seven-point margin.
“That is such a change," said Dan Savage, Seattle author and longtime gay-rights advocate. "It's such a sea change, such a one-eighty. There aren’t words for how far we’ve come and how fast.” Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, were also among the first to get a license.
Outside the King County Administration Building, a church choir entertained the hundreds of people still waiting their turn. Some faced wait times of four or five hours. Volunteers handed out free coffee.
People inched forward in line, many holding flowers or champagne. Kim Hardy was toward the front and says a man just started handing out champagne to everyone in line until he ran out.
As couples left the building, licenses in hand, a cheering crowd greeted them. The whole night left Tacoma resident Teri Bednarski overcome and overjoyed. "When we see him signing, all the sudden you just start shaking. This is real. This is it."
People in line said they wanted to spend this historic night with others who shared their fight for equal rights. And many of them are about to share another big day on Sunday. That’s the first day same-sex couples can use these licenses to officially say “I do.”