* Washington state gay marriage law takes effect Thursday
* First weddings set for Sunday
OLYMPIA, Wash., Dec 5 (Reuters) - County clerks across
Washington state braced on Wednesday for a flood of
marriage-license applications from gay and lesbian couples eager
to exchange vows once a new law legalizing same-sex matrimony
takes effect at the stroke of midnight.
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 will be the first of those states to put its law
into effect on Thursday. Same-sex matrimony goes on the books in
Maryland and Maine on Dec. 29 and Jan. 1, respectively.
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 open at midnight to grant marriage licenses to
the 15 same-sex couples who entered a lottery to be served
first. The office will reopen at 7 a.m. 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 will be the first same-sex
couple in Thurston County - and perhaps the state - to receive a
"It's a feeling of unmitigated happiness," said Brodoff, 57,
a law professor at Seattle University. "We've been together
almost 32 years and we've looked forward to and hoped for this
day for virtually the entire time we've been together."
SAVING THAT DATE
Brodoff said she and Grotsky, 56, could have tied the knot
in one of the six states w here same-sex marriage was already
legal, but they wanted to wait until they could marry in their
In Seattle, King County offices were also slated to open at
midnight to serve same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses and
planned to stay open late, until 6:30 p.m., on Thursday, in
anticipation of a surge. About 140 couples were already expected
to show up at City Hall in Seattle for weddings being held there
In Tacoma, Pierce County will open its doors at 6:30 a.m. on
Thursday, two hours earlier than usual, and will provide weekend
hours, as well.
"We expect we'll have a large crowd," Pierce County Chief
Deputy Auditor Lori Augino said. "We're prepared to help upward
of 150 couples (on Thursday), whether they show up or not."
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 46 percent.
Olympia residents Tina Roose and Teresa Guajardo said they
would wait until Dec. 15 to marry, having reserved the majestic
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.
"We had faith in the voters of Washington," Roose said,
adding they had invited other couples, both gay and straight, to
tie the knot alongside them at the Capitol.
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 and Peter Cooney)