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Kelly Middleton and Amanda Dollente, the first couple in line at the King County Recorder's Office.
Hundreds of King County residents gathered in downtown Seattle at the County Administrative building on the evening of December 5, 2012 in order to get in line to apply for marriage licenses. One minute after midnight on December 6, 2012 the first Washington state marriage license for a same-sex couple was issued.
As Brian Rosenthal and Alexa Vaughn report in the Seattle Times, "the couples cried, shared love stories and passed around flowers. Just after midnight, they rejoiced."
County Executive Dow Constantine ordered the administrative offices opened at 10:00 p.m. on December 5 so that all would be in order for the marriage applications to be issued at the earliest possible moment.
"I am so glad this night has finally arrived," Constantine said of Washington's official recognition of same-sex marriages. "This has been a long struggle nationally and in our state."
County staffers said they were happy to work extra hours on such a festive occasion.
"This is marriage," county spokesman Cameron Satterfield said. "It's one of the few happy things that we get to do in government."
As the crowd started to build in the hours before midnight, the atmosphere came to resemble a party: the crowd cheered, horns from passing cars signaled approval, and a makeshift choir sang "Going to the Chapel of Love."
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. He personally signed licenses for the first couples, using the same pen Governor Chris Gregoire used to sign the marriage equality bill in February.
The first couple to receive a license were West Seattle residents Pete-e Petersen and Jane Abbott Lighty, described as the matriarchs of the marriage equality movement in Washington.
"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."
As reported by Joel Connelly and Casey McNerthney in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller also applied for a Washington state marriage license. The couple were married in Canada in 2005, but plan to repeat their vows in a mass wedding at Seattle City Hall on December 9, 2012, the first day in which same-sex couples may legally exchange vows in the state since Washington requires a three-day waiting period after a marriage license is issued. It is expected that 142 couples will marry at City Hall on December 9.
Savage said, "It's really a remarkable journey we've been on and such a remarkable sea change. And not just for gay people, but straight people have changed, too. It's gotten better for us because straight people have gotten better about us."
Another couple in the crowd in the early hours of December 6 was Senator Ed Murray and his partner Michael Shiosaki. Murray, who was the chief sponsor of the marriage equality legislation, said, "Marriage should be a happy time, and it's a happy night."
However, Murray and Shiosaki did not apply for a marriage license. They plan to wed in the summer near the anniversary of their meeting.
Voters in Maryland and Maine also approved marriage equality referenda on November 6, 2012. Same-sex couples in Maryland may also apply for marriage licenses beginning on December 6, but the licenses cannot be used before January 1, 2013. In Maine, marriage licenses for same-sex couples will be issued beginning on December 29, 2012.
In the video below, Dan Savage and Terry Miller pick up their marriage license and then Savage talks about marriage equality.