The news out of Washington, just north of my home state, has been a delight to watch this week. After finally overthrowing its own mini-DOMA in November, Washington’s government has been preparing for the day when the new law would take effect and it could offer marriage rights to all of its citizens. Marriage licenses were made available on 6 December, with the first weddings occurring on Sunday, 9 December.
Officials of King County (which encompasses Seattle) understood both the historic significance of the moment, and the pent-up demand of its citizens. So instead of making everyone wait until normal business hours on 6 December, they opened their doors at midnight. Couples queued up for hours in advance, surrounded by delighted supporters who were there to cheer them on.
The very first license was collected by Jane Abbott Lighty (left) and Petee Petersen. They’ve been together for 35 years.
Jane and Petee are getting married on Sunday in a ceremony including the Seattle Men’s Chorus, and I bet I’m not the only totally unrelated person wishing I could be there to witness it.
Hundreds of other couples are also trying to get married on Sunday, in order to wed the very first day they possibly can. Many of them have been together for decades and do not want to wait a minute longer. Seattle’s City Hall had space and time for 80 couples, but those slots were almost immediately booked. After scrambling around a bit, officials announced that they’d found room for another 60 couples — and those slots were snapped up as well.
Then a wonderful thing happened.
Seven King County Superior Court judges and one judicial official offered to come into the courthouse, unpaid, on their day off, to offer their services. They’re working in shifts from midnight until 20:00, with one judge pulling a full night shift from midnight to 7:00 in the morning. Her name? Mary Yu. I am not making that up — it’s simply perfect.
Others in the community have also stepped up to offer space and services, including many churches and the S’Klallam Tribe. Seattle and King County is going to be hopping with weddings this Sunday, and I can’t wait for the flood of photos afterwards. Watching a community so warmly welcome and include members who have been kept outside for so long…what a day.
(Note to my beloved home state: Are you paying attention? Washington is showing you up and making you look like a backwater. You’re not going to let that stand, are you?)