* Same-sex marriage becomes law in Washington state
* First gay weddings expected at the weekend
OLYMPIA, Wash., Dec 6 (Reuters) - A new law legalizing
same-sex matrimony came into effect in Washington state on
Thursday and officials geared up for a flood of marriage-license
applications from gay and lesbian couples eager to exchange
Washington made history last month as one of three U.S.
states where marriage rights were extended to same-sex couples
by popular vote, joining Maryland and Maine in passing ballot
initiatives on Nov. 6 recognizing gay nuptials.
Washington became the first of those states to put its law
into effect - it became law at the stroke of midnight - and
same-sex matrimony is set to go on the books in Maine on Dec. 29
and in Maryland on Jan. 1.
Under Washington state law, all would-be brides and grooms
must submit their marriage certificates at least three days in
advance. So the first wave of same-sex Washington weddings -
expected to number in the hundreds - is scheduled for Sunday.
In Olympia, the state capital, the Thurston County Auditor's
Office planned to grant marriage licenses to the 15 same-sex
couples who entered a lottery to be served first at midnight.
The office was to reopen in the morning to serve others.
"It's exciting," said Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman, a
Republican. "This is a moment people will look back at years
from now. I think it's important to acknowledge and celebrate
Lisa Brodoff and Lynn Grotsky, partners of nearly 32 years,
were aiming to be among the first same-sex couples in Thurston
County - and perhaps the state - to receive a marriage license.
"We have the greatest feeling of happiness and relief and
excitement," said Brodoff, 57, a law professor at Seattle
University. "We've had this overwhelming flood of e-mails and
Facebook and telephone calls - snail mail even - with people
SAVING THAT DATE
Brodoff said she and Grotsky, 56, could have tied the knot
in one of the six states where same-sex marriage was already
legal, but they wanted to wait until they could marry in their
While heterosexual couples face difficulties enough picking
an ideal time and place for their nuptials, the fraught politics
of same-sex marriage in Washington state made it much trickier
for gay and lesbian couples to plan ahead.
The Democratic-controlled state legislature passed a bill to
legalize gay marriage in February, and Democratic Governor
Christine Gregoire swiftly signed it into law.
But opponents collected enough signatures to temporarily
block the measure from taking effect and force the issue onto
the state ballot in November. Voters passed it by 54 percent to
Olympia residents Tina Roose and Teresa Guajardo said they
would wait until Dec. 15 to marry, having reserved the majestic
state Capitol rotunda for a pre-Christmas wedding ceremony.
The uncertainty of the ballot initiative process proved a
bit of a nail-biter as Roose and Guajardo waited for the
election results to see if they could keep their reservation.
"I am able to marry the person that I love," Roose said. She
said the couple had invited others, both gay and straight, to
tie the knot alongside them at the Capitol.
"I just ran into a colleague today at a grocery," added
Roose, a retired librarian. "She was so excited. She asked all
the typical questions like, 'What are you going to wear?'"
As for those who voted against same-sex marriage, Roose said
she hoped they would be won over "with love."
"You can only change people's attitudes one heart at a
time," she said.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston and Jon Boyle)