UPDATE 1-Washington state readies for same-sex marriage

* Same-sex marriage becomes law in Washington state

* First gay weddings expected at the weekend

(Adds details and color from Seattle and Olympia)

OLYMPIA, Wash., Dec 6 (Reuters) - A law legalizing same-sex

matrimony took 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 vows.

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.

"This is an historic occasion," said Thurston County Auditor

Kim Wyman, a Republican. "Some of these couples have been

together for more than 20 or 30 years. It's pretty moving when

you hear those stories."

Lisa Brodoff and Lynn Grotsky, partners of nearly 32 years,

became the first same-sex couple in Thurston County, and perhaps

the state, to receive a marriage license - to the cheers of a

crowd of other same-sex couples and supporters.

"We have the greatest feeling of happiness and relief and

excitement," said Brodoff, 57, a law professor at Seattle


Grotsky, a 56-year-old social worker, said that when she and

Brodoff became a couple, they were afraid to tell acquaintances

and co-workers that they were lesbians.

"Everything was a fight and a conflict," Grotsky said. "Now

it's like we're regular people."

The pair, who hugged and kissed after getting their license,

could have tied the knot in one of the six states where same-sex

marriage was already legal, but wanted to wait until they could

marry in their home state.


In Seattle, about 150 same-sex couples lined up outside

county offices shortly before midnight, waiting in a festive

atmosphere for the doors to open to obtain marriage licenses.

Some sat in lawn chairs and others brought late-night picnics.

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 even 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

46 percent.

"It feels like we're on even ground," said Derek Hoffman,

33, who received a license in Olympia to marry his partner of 10

years, Chris Waterman, 35. "Like not being less than other


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.

(Additional reporting by Laura L. Myers in Seattle; Editing by

Steve Gorman, Cynthia Johnston, Jon Boyle and Catherine Evans)

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